Diet or Regular?

READER’S QUESTION

I understand that kids should not be drinking too many soft drinks, but on those occasions that you give a soft drink to your child, what’s better, diet or regular soda? Do you have any other suggestions? Is Kool-Aid or fruit juice better? – GINA V., Plymouth

 DR. BLUM’S ANSWER

When giving a soft drink to children, whether to offer regular pop with sugar or diet pop with a sugar substitute is, like most things, not a simple question. First of all, more natural drinks would be best: low fat milk, water, juice. The question about whether to use regular or diet soda depends on the weight of the child. If the child does not have any weight issues, I would prefer that children drink regular soda with sugar rather than diet. We don’t know the long-term effects of sugar substitutes, so using sugar is probably less of a concern. If the child is overweight, and this is getting to be more of problem, than I would prefer that the child not drink any calories. That means they should drink water, diet pop or skim milk. We also do not know the effects of caffeine on children’s brain development, but it seems to safe. Still, whether to give a child caffeinated or non-caffeinated soda should be based on the time of day and how it will affect the child’s ability to fall asleep at night. No caffeine after lunch is a good rule of thumb.

Dr. Robert M. Blum is a pediatrician at Southfield Pediatrics in Bingham Farms and West Bloomfield. Email him questions at askdrblum@www.metroparent.com.

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