Argghh!!! Instead of Water, Kids are Switching to Diet Soft Drinks

Diet-Soda-Kid

photo: BayCitizen.org

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In the last decade, the number of children consuming diet soft drinks has doubled. In 1998, only 6% drank diet cola, but by 2008, the percentage rose to 12.5. For reference, about 25% of adults consume diet beverages. The data was published in this month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Perhaps it should not be surprising that more kids are turning to diet drinks. The rates of childhood obesity in this country have skyrocketed in the last 30 years. Soft drinks, which are nothing more than liquid candy, have their share of the blame. One would expect parents to encourage their children to drink water and only water.

But when marketers go out of their way to start toddlers on 100% juice in cute colorful packages, you know it’s going to go downhill from there. Children have much more of a sweet tooth than adults, so getting them hooked on sugary drinks is almost inevitable in an aggressive junk food environment we are all a part of.

Once children start to feel the social pain of being overweight, they turn to the same easy solution that grown ups do – diet drinks. We’ve stated our position on diet drinks multiple times in the past – they are bad, bad, bad:

  • Diet drinks confuse kids’ metabolisms – the body thinks it will be receiving caloric input because the mouth has tasted sweet. This causes the regulatory system that controls our hunger to get whacked out of sync.
  • Kids that are used to sweet flavors (from artificial sweeteners and also caloric sweeteners) find it hard to enjoy natural sweet flavors from fruits. Why have a blueberry or strawberry anymore?
  • Long term effects unknown – no studies have been conducted to ascertain the risk of artificial sweetener consumption by young, growing people. Rodent tests have shown carcinogenic effects. Do you want your child to be part of a big science experiment?
  • People who drink diet beverages tend to be just as overweight as the rest of the population, if not heavier. While correlation does not imply causation, one thing is clear – diet soft drinks are not the panacea an overweight child needs to slim down.

Our advice to parents – the longer you can keep kids off of sugary drinks, the less they will crave them. And that means you won’t need to find substitutes like diet drinks.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/amber.may1008 Amber May

    I have let my daughter drink 100% juice many times during her childhood. While I understand that it’s not good for her to drink only that, what else do you suggest for kids who get bored with milk and water?

    • Ashley

      Almond milk, coconut milk, coconut water, homemade fruit smoothies, even adding some lemon or orange slices to a cup of water. My kid hasn’t had juice yet or really anything for that matter outside of breastmilk and the above mentioned things. He’s only 2 but I want to prepare him as best I can. Plus he’s 2…he doesn’t buy anything so guess who has no options? Lol

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Treat juice as a once-in-a-while treat, not as a hydration solution. Kids get bored of brushing their teeth, washing up, doing homework, etc… If water is the only option placed on the dinner table, that’s what they will drink.

    • Carol

      Try watered down juice — use half (or even more) water, so you get some taste but much less sugar/calories. Very refreshing, plus you get some potassium. Or simply serve water with a slice or two of lime, lemon and/or orange.

  • Abby

    Good article.

    You have a double negative in there… “no studies have not been conducted.”

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Thanks! corrected.

  • Karey

    If your kids dont have any other choice at home then they will grow up with the same habits. We do not and have never had soda in our home. Only water and almond milk. My son is 14 now and doesnt want anything to do with soda and thinks its disgusting and no one should drink it, especially diet! He even knows how bad artificial sweetners are, because i taught him. So more then anything its the parents faults!

  • Diane Beere

    I apologize, I just can’t help it to say switching to diet soda from regular soda instead of opting for water that gives in its purity the gift of life means opting for diet soda is basically opting for a chemical infusion instead of cleansing our bodies with unadulterated water that meets our most basic needs because pure water purifies and refreshes our bodies as we go through our daily living.

  • James Cooper

    Not a single one of your claims has been supported by any peer-reviewed research. Fruits would certainly be better, but there is no evidence that diet soft drinks are problematic.

  • Rj

    Once your child is hooked, how do you recommend getting a child on water when they “hate” it? I don’t like it either so this is going to be something the both of us work on.

  • shasta todd

    zevia is a non-sugar alternate

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