Let’s face it, sugar can be addictive. And while adults are accountable for their intake of sugars and sweets, children are not always as aware. We as adults need to help encourage and teach them about healthy diets, exercise routines, and good oral health habits.
According to a report from the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, “Fruit drinks and flavored waters that contain added sugars and/or low-calorie (diet) sweeteners dominated sales of drinks intended for children in 2018, making up 62 percent of the $2.2 billion in total children’s drink sales.” That’s almost two-thirds of all the sales. What’s worse is those companies spent millions of dollars to directly market to children in an effort to encourage kids’ sugary drink consumption.
Why are a couple sugary drinks here or there bad? The problem lies in how much sugar is in the drinks, and how kids aren’t fighting cavities after drinking them.
According to the report, “One-third of all children’s fruit drinks contained 16 grams or more of sugar per serving — equivalent to 4 teaspoons, which is more than half of the maximum amount of added sugars experts recommend for children per day.” A lead author of the study believes that parents would be surprised to learn that pediatricians, dentists, and other nutrition experts actually advise against giving these beverages to kids.
Brushing and flossing after drinking these sugar-infused beverages is one way to help keep a child’s teeth happy. Another is drinking water, which helps rinse the excess sugar from the mouth. Unfortunately, many kids aren’t drinking water at all throughout the day.
Researchers have found that about “20 percent of children reported drinking no water throughout the day. And they consumed almost twice as many calories, on average, as kids who did drink some water.” This lack of hydration leads to more calories taken in and an increased risk for serious oral and overall health issues.
How can we prevent kids’ sugary drink consumption?
First, treat sweetened drinks as what they are: treats. Don’t enable kids’ sugary drink consumption by allowing them anytime, anywhere. Use them as rewards or a special treat for certain special occasions. Eliminating a dependence on them early will help them to establish healthier habits.
Second, prioritize water. We all need lots of water to survive, so make sure your child is getting enough throughout the day. Not only is water necessary, but it’s good for you and your teeth.
Third, pay attention to labels. Many products can be misleading, so it’s always good to look at what is actually in a beverage before buying it. According to the Children’s Drink FACTS 2019 report:
- Sugar-sweetened children’s fruit drinks typically contained just 5 percent juice or less.
- 80 percent of those packages included images of fruit.
- 60 percent claimed to have “less” or “low” sugar or “no high fructose corn syrup.”
Fourth, educate your children on why it’s important to know what you’re consuming. As they grow and mature, they’ll carry those habits with them.
Fifth, talk to your child’s dentist. There’s no need to rush out and schedule an appointment right away, unless you’re experiencing a dental emergency. However, bringing up the subject of kids’ sugary drink consumption at your next appointment isn’t a bad idea. Keep your dentist informed on your child’s sugar intake, and solicit ideas for alternatives or ways to change habits.
For more information on keeping teeth healthy, check out: