With all the concern about childhood obesity there’s some good news to report in survey data that indicates children and adolescents are drinking less soda. But what they are drinking (or not drinking) instead of soda may be cause for concern.
The new data describes trends in what kids have been drinking in the last decade. First the good news:
- The percentage of kids age 6-12 who drink soda fell from 55% to 45%
- For teens 13-17 years old, the percentage of soda drinkers dropped from 67% to 53%
Because most soda contains little or no nutritional value, drinking less will help cut calories from sugar and reduce the amount of acidic drinks that can damage teeth.
Juice: Too Much of a Good Thing?
Trends in juice consumption are not as clear-cut. Until recently, the consumption of 100% fruit juice was rising steadily among all age groups. Now the trend is reversing in teenagers who are turning to other beverages like sports drinks, energy drinks, coffee and tea.
Young children and toddlers are still chugging juice but many pediatricians believe they may be drinking too much juice. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for fruit juice are:
- 0-6 months: no juice
- 6 months-1 year: 1-3 oz
- 1-6 years: 4-6 oz
- 6-18 years: 8-12 oz
The concern with juice is the high amount of sugar—including naturally occurring sugars. Too much sugar is associated with many health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Fruit juice is often missing some of the nutrients and fiber that whole fruit contains. For this reason, many health experts recommend whole fruit over juice to gain all of the potential benefits of fruit.
On the down side, the survey data shows a steady decline in milk consumption. For example:
- Among children age 6-12 only 73% drink milk, down from 90%
- For teenagers the numbers are much worse. The number of milk-drinking teenagers dropped from just over 75% down to 57%.
- Also sliding is the amount of milk that kids are drinking when they do choose milk. (between 4 and 5 ounces less per day)
In drinking less milk kids are missing out on many important nutrients necessary for growth and health maintenance like calcium, vitamin D and potassium. These nutrients are needed for healthy bones and muscles and a strong immune system.
Drinking less milk would not be a problem if what kids drank instead of milk provided these nutrients, but that’s not the case.
Another growing trend in the drink category is the popularity of a new class of drinks called “functional beverages.” Popular with kids and adults, these drinks are often marketed as healthy alternatives to soda, but are they really better? Find out which drinks make the grade and which ones miss the mark with our review, Functional Drinks Exposed.
American Academy of Pediatrics