What do kids need to be drinking?

by Lauren Ramoly

You know that colorful aisle of beverages at the grocery store — turns out none of that is what our kids need.

We all bring juice boxes or Gatorade/Powerade to T-ball and soccer games, but truly what our kids need is water. Unless your child’s activity is strenuous and greater than an hour, then sports drinks are unnecessary.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet with fruits and vegetables will provide the electrolytes our bodies need. Typically the American diet provides more sodium (salt) than we need anyway.

Energy drinks or “performance” drinks are never appropriate for kids. Don’t kids today have enough struggles without throwing caffeine and sugar in the mix? The current recommendation is to drink water before, during and after exercise. True, sports drinks have less calories and grams of sugar than sodas, but this does not mean our kids should be drinking them like water.

Even juice should be in moderation. The current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is four to six ounces or less of juice per day. Even though juice is not bad for you, it can still give kids too many calories and lead to obesity.

I get asked about vitamin or flavored water as well, and my concern with them is artificial sweeteners. I don’t let my kids have them because the jury is still out on the short-term and long-term side effects of consumption. The jury is still out on artificial colors and dyes as well.

Food for thought: Research shows that children with the highest intakes of sugar-sweetened drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese than children with a low intake of sugar-sweetened drinks. We also are seeing an increase in tooth decay with high sugar consumption. The World Health Organization says 10 percent or less of our calories should come from sugar.

The struggle is real. I try to limit my kids’ sugar, but man is it everywhere and so appealing to them (and us)! This article is designed to inform, not “parent shame” you.

Every day is filled with choices, and we can change those choices at any time for the better. Instead of juice, let’s give our kids fresh fruit, and instead of sugary beverages, let’s give our kids what their bodies really need and crave — water! Water is required for our bodies to function properly. If we can get our kids used to drinking it and craving water at a young age, it will serve them well in the future.

Try adding frozen fruit to their water or a splash of 100 percent fruit juice if your kids don’t like plain water.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rank Arkansas at the top of the rankings in childhood obesity, a condition that can lead to early onset diabetes, high cholesterol and skeletal problems. The percentage of obese children in Arkansas is at 18 percent among children ages 6 to 11.

Conway Regional Health System and the Conway Regional Women’s Council have made reducing childhood obesity a priority for improving the health of Faulkner County.

To get involved with the Women’s Council and learn more about their programs, call 501.513.5771.

Lauren Ramoly, MS, RD, LD, is a registered clinical dietitian with 10 years of experience in the health care industry, including eight years at Conway Regional Health System. She holds a master’s degree in community counseling.