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Lani Telian, Department of Public Health

 

 

The other morning, my soon-to-be husband woke up, walked immediately to the refrigerator, and started his day by gulping down a blue sports drink. When he picked me up later that night, there was an empty energy drink can in his cup holder. This, unfortunately, is not anything out of the ordinary.

While I can’t tell him what to do (all of the time), I did get to thinking about our future: When we have kids, is he going to feed them sugary drinks, too?  I know it’s important for kids to stay hydrated, especially when they’re active or playing sports. But what do these drinks really offer? More importantly, do kids really need what these drinks are promising?

In most cases, no. Most kids get all the nutrients and energy they need from plenty of water and a healthy, balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Yet energy drinks, sports drinks and enhanced waters all have one thing in common: they all promise to help us do something “extra”, whether it’s scoring a goal, running faster, or increasing our energy. It’s understandable why these drinks are so appealing, but are the promises too good to be true?

SportsDrinks smallSports Drinks
Many parents think if their child plays sports, they need a sports drink to help quench their thirst. If your child participates in sustained vigorous activity lasting 60 minutes or longer, or in summertime “double sessions” where they’ll be very active during the heat of the day, then small amounts of sports drinks during or after activity can be useful to help them rehydrate. For casual athletes or kids who aren’t active, sports drinks are not only unnecessary but can be harmful to kids’ health. Don’t forget that these drinks are packed with sugar and empty calories, which can easily lead to weight gain. A safe way to keep kids hydrated during sports is to keep plenty of water available to them before, during and after the activity.

Vitaminwater smallEnhanced Waters
Similar to sports drinks, enhanced waters promise to keep you hydrated, but they are also marketed as an easy way to give your kids the nutrients they need. The truth is that most kids get enough nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet. In fact, enhanced waters can actually give children too many vitamins or minerals, which can be unhealthy. These drinks also have lots of sugar and calories, and are packed with herbal ingredients whose effects on children have not been studied yet. Play it safe and skip over these at the store.

 

EnergyDrinks smallEnergy Drinks
One type of drink kids and teens are buying up left and right are energy drinks. But the nation’s pediatricians are up in arms over the popularity of these highly caffeinated drinks. A report from the American Academy of Pediatricians warns that energy drinks are harmful to kids and should be off limits due to the amount of caffeine. In fact, some energy drinks can pack as much caffeine as 1 to 3 cups of coffee. Know that feeling after you’ve had too much coffee? Now imagine how that amount of caffeine will make your small, growing child feel. Caffeine has negative effects on children, just like it does on adults but to a much greater degree. It can cause nervousness, upset stomach, headaches, and difficulty sleeping and concentrating.

Whether sports drinks, energy drinks, or enhanced waters – limiting these is the best thing you can do for your kids.  Drinking lots of water is always the best way to keep your kids hydrated. If they don’t love drinking water, try adding some fruit (like lemons or raspberries) to give it a boost of flavor. Always make sure to check the labels before giving your child a new drink and consult your doctor if you have any concerns. 

You can find more information on drinks at Mass in Motion.

 

 

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