Health aware parents and caregivers tend to watch quite closely what their children eat and are mindful of the importance of setting a positive example in the food choices they make for themselves. But when it comes to beverages, the tendency is not to pay as much attention. Perhaps it’s because they’re in liquid form that we don’t think beverage choices add up as readily as solid food calories. But they do. And an ever-expanding offering of fruit juices, flavoured waters, fizzy drinks and others in colourful packaging is attracting our attention in a big way. In 2006, the Canadian beverage industry reported sales of 80 billion dollars. The beverage market is a hot one, and sales are skyrocketing with each passing year. Due to expanding portion sizes and high sugar content, we need to take stock of how much we and our children may be drinking.
In the 1950s, the average serving of pop was one of those small glass bottles. It contained 6.5 ounces. By the 1960s, this had almost doubled to the taller 12 ounces (355 ml) bottle. In the 1990s, pop became the beverage of choice for most people and the average portions went up to 20 ounces (591 ml). That 20 ounce bottle of pop contributes about 15 teaspoons of sugar to the diet. If you drank one 591 ml bottle of pop every day for one year, you would be consuming an incredible 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of sugar over the course of a year. Some people drink much more than this.
Often people are surprised when they hear how much sugar is in a sweetened drink. A small carton (250 ml) of unsweetened, 100% real juice will give you 6 teaspoons of natural sugar. The juice drink bottles at 414 ml have double that at 12 teaspoons. If you choose a 600 ml bottle of fruit juice you will be getting 21 teaspoons of sugar. (More if it’s a sugar-sweetened fruit “drink”.) This is the same sugar content as a medium “slushy” drink. The large size “slushy” drink contains 32 teaspoons of sugar and the extreme size (almost 2 litres) has 48 teaspoons of sugar. This is equal to three cups of table sugar.
Soft drinks are not just the fizzy soda pops. They also include things like lemonade, iced tea, sports drinks and any fruit juices that are labeled as cocktail, nectar, beverage, drink or blend. If the first two ingredients are sugar and water, you are essentially serving a soft drink.
In general, consumers have little knowledge of how much sugar they are consuming or how much they are giving to their children. It is important to read the list of ingredients. If sugar is the first ingredient, adults need to decide whether to offer it to children or at least limit how often it is served. High sugar consumption is contributing to the alarming increase in obesity among children, adolescents and adults. For every serving of sugar sweetened drink consumed daily, the risk of overweight increases by 60%.
Other health effects related to high sugar consumption and obesity are heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In children, sugary drinks replace high nutrient choices like milk and fill children up so they do not eat enough healthy foods. This can seriously affect a child’s nutritional health. Become aware of how much sugar you and your family are consuming in the form of liquid calories.
Make a commitment to choose healthier beverages. After age two, water should be the main drink for children and adults. Children ages two to five still need milk, although only two servings daily rather than an unlimited supply in a bottle. Juice is not a requirement for good health and is not something that must be introduced in the first two years of life. Choosing whole fruit cut in kid-friendly portions offers more fibre and a little more staying power. In cases where active kids are underweight and need extra calories, offer real, 100% juice. Save pop as a very occasional treat rather than a daily staple. Generally, if you avoid buying sugary drinks, they won’t be on hand in the cupboards for your family to request.
Source: Eileen Bennewith, B.Sc., RD (Registered Dietitian), Community Nutritionist with the Vancouver Island Health Authority for permission share information from her article on this subject. Eileen can be reached at email@example.com.
By – Patricia Chuey is a registered dietitian