Get Yourself Moving!™

Thoughts on improving fitness, nutrition and learning for children and adults alike

The Real Truth About Kids and “Flavored Water”

I’ve been thinking about this question for awhile: Should we allow our children to drink flavored water? This relatively new product is produced by the soda industry to capitalize on the health & fitness movement to increase their sales revenue. What exactly is flavored water, anyway? Sounds like it’s just water with some “flavor” added. My suggestion: check the label.

When a beverage is called “Flavored Water” it’s a clue that there’s a lot going on in that bottle. It depends on the flavored water you choose, but some have sugar or high fructose corn syrup (which means they have calories), vitamins, artificial colors and flavors. Still others have artificial sweeteners and stimulants like caffeine. Drinking flavored water like, well, water, throughout the day could easily contribute to tooth decay. Do not fool yourself into thinking you’re providing a healthy drink for your child by giving them a bottle of flavored water. It may be a lesser evil than soda, but not by much.

Instead of giving in to the marketing hype, take a step back and steel yourself against the whines of your children (who will give in to the marketing hype… at first). Then, think about what your children actually should be drinking. Yes, milk and juice are a part of it, but a surprisingly small part. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends whole milk for 1-2 years old, and low-fat milk for over 2 years. The total dairy consumption recommendation is 3-4 servings daily (that includes not just milk but cheese, yogurt, etc.).

100% fruit juice is only recommended for kids over 6 months old, and for children ages 1-6 the TOTAL daily amount of juice should only be 4-6 ounces – less than what you’ll find in a single juice box! How many kids do you know who drink 4, 5, 6 juice boxes every day!

For children over 2 years, the AAP recommends AVOIDING carbonated beverages of any kind (including artificially sweetened) and juice drinks. So what do pediatricians recommend you give your child when she or he says “I’m thirsty?”

WATER… About 50 to 57 ounces throughout the day. (Note to educators: Students should be drinking about 3 to 4 glasses of water throughout the school day).

So, let’s break this down. AAP recommends a child gets:

  • Less than 3 to 4 SERVICES of dairy products, including milk, a day
  • No more than 4 to 6 OUNCES of 100% juice (NO JUICE DRINKS, which contain sugars) a day
  • NO sodas of any kind are recommended at all
  • 50 to 57 ounces of WATER a day – that’s nearly HALF A GALLON of water a day

Pediatricians are concerned with your child’s health, not beverage companies. Don’t give in to the hype. The largest quantity of liquid going into your child’s mouth should be clean, clear, calorie-free (and usually cost-free) water.

When I was growing up, water was free and available everywhere. There were water fountains both inside and outside of schools. Vending machines were nonexistent or at least not turned on until school was over. Somewhere along the way, however, we got scared about what was in our water, so we started avoiding water fountains. Our thirst took us to beverages in bottles and cans, and the beverage companies were happy to oblige, adding sugar and flavors to make us buy more.

In the U.S. and Canada at least, any water you drink from any properly-maintained public source is going to be better for you than any soda, juice or commercially-produced flavored water will ever be.

Next, I’ll tell you about how to make that water taste good, without adding sugar!

Mon, February 15 2010 » Everything Else, Reversing Childhood Obsesity

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