By Emer Delaney, British Dietetic Association spokesperson
We all know that giving children fizzy drinks is never a great idea because they are high in sugar and have very little nutrients. Some contain the equivalent of eight heaped teaspoons of sugar, which can not only contribute to weight gain as they don't make your child feel full, but can also damage their teeth. And now health experts have calculated there's even more sugar in some smoothies and health drinks. While there are no recommendations on the number of sugary drinks that are allowed, parents should limit them as best they can.
Research has shown that children aged four to ten years get 16% of their sugar intake from soft and fizzy drinks and soft drinks were the largest contributor to sugar intake for children aged four to eighteen years. These are frightening figures because when kids drink too much juice, juice or sport drinks their intake of milk declines and they get too little calcium for their growing teeth and bones.
Whether its fruit juice or fizzy drinks, the source of the sugar doesn't matter as any sugar the body doesn't need will be converted to fat. Also, when children have these drinks on an empty stomach, the body takes in sugar so quickly, insulin spikes and then drops suddenly, leaving them feeling hungry. 50% of UK children are now overweight so limiting these drinks is more important than ever.
So what can parents do? Limit the drinks for special occasions only like parties or holidays; dilute fruit juices with water; try flavoured water or de-caffeinated tea for a change. But the easiest and clearest message for all - milk or water should be a child's only choice.
We need to empower our children to make their own decisions and to teach them that too many fizzy drinks, fruit juice or sweet drinks are bad for their bodies. Change doesn't happen overnight, but we can start making small steps today and make it happen today.