Do your kids ask for energy drinks? Mine do! The main ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine. Other substances such as guarana, which contains caffeine, may be present as well. Some energy drinks do label the amount of caffeine, however, when tested some drinks had more caffeine that the label stated. Some energy drinks can have as much caffeine as 9 cans of soda! Although caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed stimulant, it can cause nervousness, increased blood pressure, irritability, sleeplessness, a rapid heartbeat, and may worsen psychiatric conditions. The long-term safety of energy drinks is not known. The American Academy of Pediatrics stands firmly that they are not recommended for children. Even so, 30 to 50% of adolescents admit that they consume energy drinks. As parents, we need to say NO to energy drinks.
Sports drinks are not much better. Sports drinks were developed and intended for use in college athletics when practicing for long hours in the heat. Today kids think that they are good for everyday lunch purposes. They contain calories, carbohydrates, electrolytes and flavoring. These are not recommended for children on a daily basis, and should be reserved for prolonged vigorous physical exercise.
Juice should be used sparingly and limited to 4 to 6 ounces per day. The extra calories from juice may contribute to weight gain, so that it may be best to eat the fruit and drink water. Instead of apple juice, offer a sliced-up apple. Instead of orange juice, try an orange. Instead of grape juice, have some grapes.
We all know that sodas aren’t the best for us. Yet, I must admit, I enjoy an occasional diet soda. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, drinks that have been sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners can be used in a healthy diet to help improve the flavor of drinks. Also use of non-calorie sweeteners can help with weight control. Compared to the calories in soda or sweetened drinks, the non-caloric sweeteners offer another option for flavoring drinks while avoiding unnecessary calories. You can use non-caloric sweeteners to make lemonade or iced tea, which are both refreshing and delicious. Soda is not needed for a healthy diet and is not recommended, but if soda is offered, it should be given sparingly. The use of a diet soda would contribute fewer calories than a regular soda. Many sodas also contain caffeine.
The best drinks for children are low fat milk and water. Milk is available as 2%, 1% or skim. Any of those options are fine. Whole milk is only recommended for kids between 12-24 months. Milk contains essential Calcium and Vitamin D. Three to four cups of milk daily will provide the necessary requirements for children. If your child is not drinking the required amount of milk daily, or is lactose intolerant, then consider adding a supplement containing Calcium and Vitamin D.
Water is the best choice for quenching thirst and providing necessary fluid. Water should not be given to infants less than 6 months old, as they get enough fluid with formula or breast milk. Water may be flavored by slicing fresh fruit such as oranges, strawberries, or apples and letting the fruit infuse the water. No sugar is necessary to flavor the water as the natural sweetness of the fruit escapes. Cucumber slices give water a particularly crisp and refreshing taste. You can ask your kids for ideas to try new variations. A favorite is strawberry and blueberry water. It’s even more refreshing with a fresh sprig of mint. Making your own infused water is simpler than you think and much less expensive than the store-bought variety. Kids love it! Let them help with preparation and they will be more likely to try it.
Read more about this topic in my article “Beverage Buzz: Are Energy or Sports Drinks Good for Kids?” which is published in the Winter edition of Ready, Set, Grow Parenting magazine available at your pediatric office nationwide or online atwww.readysetgrowmag.com