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Children / Consumer / Health

The #1 Way to Reduce Calories for Your Family

The #1 Way to Reduce Calories for Your Family

Fried foods, over-consumption and too much fat all add excess calories to our diets. But sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are, above all, the most consistent caloric contributor – no matter your child’s age, ethnicity or gender.

What are sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)?

SSBs are anything you drink that has added sugar, and can include beverages like soda, fruit juice and even fancy coffee drinks.

 What’s wrong with sugar-sweetened beverages?

SSBs can contribute to all sorts of health problems including increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, childhood and adult obesity, and poor dental health. They also add many calories to a child’s diet without adding nutrition or satiety, so kids often end up eating more total calories, which can lead to weight gain. Plus, drinking SSBs often displaces more healthful beverages, like water or milk.

“We know that sugar-sweetened beverages have essentially no nutritional value,” said Stephen Daniels, M.D., Pediatrician-In-Chief at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “We tell patients and families to eliminate SSBs as the first step toward a healthier diet – the method is straightforward and simple.”

 Where can I cut out these drinks?

  • The soda fountain
    Soda fountains are full of sugary beverages and juices, so choose soda water (squeeze a lemon wedge in), diet drinks or lighter options.
  • The smoothie shop
    Smoothies can be tricky – because of the fruit, we think we’re eating healthy. In reality, smoothies can have a lot of sugar, too. Next time your family craves one, opt for whole fruit (such as strawberries and bananas) and light or plain yogurt smoothies, and ask for no added syrups and/or sugars.
  • Sugars by other names
    It’s also helpful to know how to read a nutrition label to identify if there’s sugar in it. Other names for sugar can include corn syrup, corn sugar, high fructose corn syrup, raw sugar, brown sugar, honey, sucrose, cane sugar, dextrose, maltose and crystalline fructose. Get the truth about artificial sweeteners. <link to>

 What about energy bars, gels and drinks for young athletes?

In general, energy bars, drinks and gels function as an important fuel source that help young athletes stay energized while exercising. The key is to know what to use and when to use it. More importantly, your child should use these sparingly as meal replacements; using too many of these products can lead to imbalances of important nutrients only found in whole foods and can upset your young athlete’s stomach.

 How do they work?

  • Sports bars – Work well as occasional on-the-go snacks for hiking, backpacking or after-school sports practice. Young athletes can also use them to refuel after exercising (along with hydrating fluids like water). Energy bars have a variety of calorie, carbohydrate, protein, fat and fiber content, and experts at Children’s Colorado recommend products with lower simple sugar and fat content.
  • Sports gels – Contain electrolytes to replace salts lost in sweat; they are low in fat and contain minimal or no protein for easy digestion. Sports gels work well before a workout or race if there isn’t enough time to eat food. Because they are a compact source of energy and carbohydrates, sports gels are also ideal for long distance rides and races. Your child may also use sports gels as part of an exercise recovery snack (along with protein and fluids). Choose a combination of water, sports drinks and sports gels that works for your child’s body – consuming too many sports gels or drinks may cause an upset stomach or diarrhea.
  • Sports drinks – Young athletes should use these to fuel and hydrate for sustained activity lasting more than one hour or during tournament play. Look for sports drinks that have these main ingredients: water, carbohydrate (sucrose and dextrose), sodium, and potassium. Beware of products that look like sports drinks but do not contain the appropriate balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes; these products may include pediatric rehydration products (such as Pedialyte®), coconut water, “enhanced” waters and low calorie sports drinks.

Get more free resources from Children’s Colorado.

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  1. Great ideas and so timely for summer!

  2. Childhood obesity is a serious public health challenge, resulting from numerous factors, from genetics to balancing calorie intake with exercise. Since 2006, the beverage industry has been doing its part by voluntarily implementing national School Beverage Guidelines. As a result, beverage companies drastically slashed beverage calories available in schools by 90%. Furthermore, industry innovations ensure there are an array of portion sizes and lower-calorie options available to help individuals and parents choose beverages that are right for them and their families.

  3. What about PediSure SideKick drinks? My daughter LOVES them, but I worry they’re as sugary as sodas.

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