Research has shown that soft drink consumption has tripled over the past thirty years and for the last decade no other single food provides more calories to a teenager’s diet than sodas and fruit drinks. Sodas and fruit drinks are also the single leading source of added sugars in a teen’s diet, providing more than half of all added sugars they consume each day. Adults too are consuming more sugar laden drinks. People who drink a small 12-ounce can of pop, lemon aid, ice tea or juice, consume about ten teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. And when we consume these empty and excessive calories in drinks, we don’t cut back on other food to make up for it. Long-term consumption of high concentrations of simple carbohydrates in sodas and juices elevate blood glucose and can contribute to insulin resistance and pre-diabetes.
Soft drinks also contain many other non-nutritional additives including caffeine. Too much caffeine in the diet can cause increased heart rate, excessive urination or difficulty sleeping. There is anywhere from about 20 to 70 mg of caffeine in a regular 355 ml soft drink. Caffeine can have a greater effect on children than on adults. Excessive caffeine intake can alter moods in children or cause irritability, poor concentration and other behavioural problems. It is recommended to limit or eliminate caffeine in children’s’ diet. Remember that excessive caffeine consumption (a total of four coffee and pop drinks or more a day) can leech calcium from bones in kids and adults.
Another additive is phosphoric acid which is added to carbonated beverages to enhance flavour and add tartness. Calcium absorption is also known to be inhibited by phosphoric acid. A lack of calcium and vitamin D in the diet during the growing years may contribute to an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life.
We’re also drinking more juice, sports drinks, and fancy coffees and teas — many of which are packed with calories, though for exercisers many sports drinks have a lower concentration of carbohydrates and also contain essential electrolytes that are lost through sweating. But beware the calorie dense drinks. Fruit juices can have 100-150 calories in 300 ml of liquid. The problem can arise when you drink fruit juice like water – that’s when the calories really add up. And in fact, one extra large fancy coffee can have up to 800 calories, which for many people is one third of your daily calories all in one beverage.
So, think about substituting milk for the sodas and sugary juices for children. Research has found that consumption of pop and juice increases as children age, while milk intake declines – suggesting that milk is being replaced by soft drinks and juice drinks. By the time a child enters adolescence, he or she is drinking about twice as many sugary sodas and fruit drinks as milk. Simple water too is overlooked as a great, no-calorie, fluid replacement, especially for active kids.
Despite the fact that cow’s milk is hard to digest for some people, milk remains the best source of several key nutrients teens need, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, all of which are needed to build strong bones. Milk is also among the top four food sources of protein, vitamin A, and zinc for both children and teens. There are also many non-dairy substitutes for milk such as soy, rice, nut and hemp products.
• Kerry Senchyna holds a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology and is owner of West Coast Kinesiology in Maple Ridge (westcoastkinesiology.com).