Rethinking Your Drink: Ditching Sugar

Sugary beverages can wreak havoc on you and your child’s health. Here are some alternatives for your family to try.

What did your kids have for dinner last night? If a 20-ounce soda accompanied their meal, then they had 16 packets of sugar. The amount of sugar in sodas, energy drinks and fruit juices is dangerously high – especially for kids. To help keep your kids healthy, ditch those sugary drinks.

Of course, it isn’t so easy when you’re dealing with picky children, but don’t fret. Lisa Ermak, the media and public relations specialist at Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana has some useful tips and tricks for you to try with your children.

“It’s all about building habits,” Ermak says. “It takes more than two months before a new behavior will stick. So once your family decides to dump sugar, remember to hang in there and don’t give up.”

Ermak encourages herself to stick with sugar-free beverages by keeping a refillable water bottle at her desk as a reminder to drink water throughout the day.

Cutting sugary drinks can be easier, and more fun, when you get the whole family involved. Family members can help hold each other accountable, and Ermak notes, it can add a layer of friendly competition as well. “It can be much more exciting when family members track their daily water intake to see who is doing the best.”

Still, sometimes you or your children may want something more than plain water. “Every so often, I’ll treat myself to a sparkling water with no sodium or sugar,” she says. But be mindful about how often and what those alternatives contain. “Excessive sugar intake puts people at risk for all sorts of chronic conditions like hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and more,” Ermak says.

Ditching sugar is also a huge factor in weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. “On average, Americans consume 42.7 grams of sugar through beverages daily, which corresponds to about 34 pounds of added sugar annually,” Ermak says.

If your kid isn’t a fan of drinking plain water yet, or is looking for the occasional treat, try mixing it up. Adding fruit to your water is a great way to give it a fruity infusion. If it’s bubbles your kid craves, give sparkling water a try. The fizz is often the missing factor for people who love drinking soda. While juice by itself can contain high amounts of natural sugars, cutting it with water, or even sparkling water, can dilute the sugar and give kids a sweeter – and healthier – soda substitute.

While substitutes are fine on occasion or as a transitional drink, it is always best to stick with plain water and low-fat milk to get the most benefits without the added sugar, Ermak adds. “Drinking water throughout the day helps me stay energized, focused and full.”

For more information on Rethink Your Drink, visit RethinkYourDrinkMi.org.

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