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Children and Sweetened Drinks: What's a Parent to Do?

Trying to trim the sweetened drinks in your child's diet? Here are a few tips that can help.

Children and Sweet Drinks: The Health Crisis continued...

That's not all. Soft drinks are rotting kids' teeth, as numerous studies have shown. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, soft drinks pose a risk of dental caries because of their high sugar content and enamel erosion because of their acidity.And, because kids are drinking more sweetened beverages than milk, they are getting too little calcium for growing teeth and bones, reports the CSPI. That's especially important for growing girls, who are at highest risk of osteoporosis.

The final analysis? Kids need to know that sweetened beverages are bad for their health, say the experts.

That's where parents can make the most difference. By educating kids on the hazards of soft drinks and other sweet drinks -- and stocking the kitchen with the right drinks -- it's possible to short-circuit the connection between children and soft drinks.

Children and Soft Drinks: Making Changes

For kids without a weight problem, one sweetened beverage per day -- as part of a well-balanced diet -- is fine, says Sarah Krieger, RD, LD, MPH, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "If children are maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and are active, one soda is OK."

The American Beverage Association agrees. "No single food or beverage is a unique contributor to obesity," says Tracey Halliday, a spokeswoman for the association. "Obesity is a serious and complex problem that is best addressed by living a balanced lifestyle -- consuming a variety of foods and beverages in moderation and getting regular physical activity. Quite simply, all calories count, regardless of the source."

If your child has a tendency to gain weight, however, it's best to keep these beverages out of the house. "Keep it for parties, since for most young kids that's about once a week," says Krieger, who is also lead instructor for children's weight management classes at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Also, limit other sweet drinks -- including 100% fruit juice. "Yes it's healthy, but it can have as many calories as a soda. One serving a day is OK, but that's all," she says.

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