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Kids are hooked on sugary drinks

  • Author: Ryan Boulding

Sugar can be addicting. While adults are accountable for their consumption of sugars and sweets, children are not always at fault. Kids depend on adults to feed them, clothe them, and teach them how to become grownups. That means we adults need to step up to teach and demonstrate healthy nutrition, active lifestyles, and good oral health habits. Sugary drinks are a growing concern for all three and more and more kids are getting hooked on them.

Companies spent millions of dollars to directly market to children to encourage kids’ sugary drink consumption. The result? Fruit drinks and flavored waters that contain added sugars and/or low-calorie (diet) sweeteners made up 62 percent of the $2.2 billion in total children's drink sales in 2018, according to a report from the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

Why are a couple sugary drinks every now and then bad? One-third of all children’s fruit drinks contained more than half of a day’s amount of added sugars for children in just one drink. That’s why pediatricians, dentists and other nutrition experts recommend that kids under 5 not have any drinks with added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners and limit drinks that are 100% juice.

Sadly for many kids, sugary drinks are a dietary staple. Researchers found 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 more calories taken in, and an increased risk for serious oral and overall health issues.

The connection between sugar and tooth decay is one we’ve long known. Plaque is a soft and sticky film full of bacteria that builds up on teeth. The bacteria eat the sugars from what we eat and drink and produce acids that ruin tooth enamel, which can lead to a cavity. If left untreated, the bacteria can also cause gum disease, which is linked to a number of medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

How can we reduce kids' sugary drink consumption?

  • 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. That will also help them establish healthy choices and avoid sugar dependence.
  • Pay attention to labels.
    Many products are misleading, whether by design or not, so it’s always good to look at what is in a beverage before buying it or serving it to your child.
  • Teach your kids why it’s important to know what is in foods and drinks, and how it can affect health.

These tips wrap together for a healthier mouth and healthier body. Brushing and flossing after drinking a sugary drink treat will help keep a child’s teeth happy, and drinking water regularly instead helps rinse debris and other harmful items from the mouth that could cause tooth decay.

Still have a craving? We understand. Check out our tips to beat your sweet tooth.

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