Posts Tagged ‘ sports drinks ’

Are You Making These Mistakes With Summertime Drinks?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

When the temperature rises, it’s natural to guzzle down extra drinks. It’s definitely important to keep yourself and your kids hydrated—and tall glasses of lemonade and iced tea are summertime rituals I don’t begrudge anyone (we enjoy them too!). But the truth is, beverages can also be sources of extra calories, sugar, and caffeine that kids just don’t need. Be sure you’re not making these common mistakes:

Too much sugar.

Between all the sweet drinks, it’s easy to gulp down tons of extra sugar in the summertime. Though kids should ideally only get about 5-8 teaspoons of added sugar a day, a small fountain lemonade or sweet tea each contain more than an entire day’s worth (about 9 teaspoons). There’s also evidence that kids who drink a lot of sweetened beverages may be at higher risk for overweight and obesity. Sweet drinks are fine occasionally, but be careful that your kids aren’t sipping them all day long (which is also crummy for teeth). In our house, we try to stick with a one-sweet-drink-per-day policy. And because they get sugary beverages so many places outside the home—like camp, restaurants, and parties—we tend not to keep them in the house.

Too many sports drinks.

There’s a common misconception that any kid breaking a sweat needs a sports drink, especially in the summer. Though it’s true that some athletes may need them for extended exercise or intense heat (read more about that here), water is adequate hydration in many cases, especially for children who are simply practicing an hour of sports or playing in the backyard. Despite the marketing hype, know this: Electrolytes aren’t special, magical ingredients only found in sports drinks. They’re simply sodium and potassium, which are easily found in foods like crackers, bananas, and yogurt.

Too much caffeine.

Your kids probably don’t drink coffee, but they may sip soda, iced tea, and even those whipped-cream-topped slushies at coffee shops. Caffeine can interfere with children’s sleep, worsen anxiety, and even mess with moods. So steer clear of energy drinks completely, and be aware of how many other caffeinated beverages your child gets. According to guidelines from Health Canada, a child age 4-6 should get no more than 45mg per day (the amount of caffeine in one can of soda) and kids ages 7-9 no more than 62.5mg (one and a half cans of soda). A bottle of iced tea can pack up to 40mg, and a small caramel coffee slushie has 70mg.

Too much milk.

Yes, even with a beverage that’s loaded with nutrients kids need—like calcium and potassium—more is not necessarily better. According to the USDA, children ages 2-3 need two cups of dairy per day (or fortified non-dairy) and kids 4-8 need two and a half. Yet I talk to parents whose kids gulp milk all day long. What’s the problem with that? Too much milk can spoil their appetites for food. And since milk is iron-poor, it’s possible for kids to become low in iron because they’re drinking too much milk and not eating enough iron-rich food. Read more here.

Above all, encourage everyone in the family to get lots of water. I know that not all kids and grown-ups are fans of plain water (my seven year old included—and in all honesty, me!) but don’t give up. Here are some tips:

  • Serve water when kids are really thirsty. It’s truly the best thirst-quencher and kids will start associating water with relief from thirst. Keep a pitcher of water or frosty water bottles on hand when your kids are playing outside and pack water for outings. Have your kids pick out a special water bottle or straw if that helps.
  • Consider carbonated water. I don’t think kids should always expect bubbly water, since it could turn into a soda habit. But an occasional glass of carbonated water, even with a splash of juice, is a fun break from the ordinary.
  • Freeze cubes of 100 percent juice and occasionally put one in a cup of ice water. It will add a little bit of flavor and color but not lots of sugar.

Got any great tricks for encouraging plain water? I’d love to hear them.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She is the author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Variety of drinks via Shutterstock

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Why You Should Stop Buying Sports Drinks for Your Kids

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

There’s nothing that makes me cringe more than sports drinks on the sidelines of youth sports. Okay, maybe frosted cupcakes on the sidelines of youth sports make me cringe a little bit more. But sports drinks are a very close second. Because the fact of the matter is, most kids just don’t need them.

Sports drinks were originally created for competitive athletes who needed quick, convenient refueling. They were designed to replenish carbohydrates, plus sodium and potassium lost through sweat. They weren’t made for kids playing a 45-minute soccer game (yes, even if they’re sweating). They definitely weren’t made for my six year old pee-wee flag football player, who spends just as much time standing around fiddling with his mouth guard as he does running around the field.

“Most kids in recreational sports don’t need a sports drink, because they play for less than an hour, and many who have games that last longer than an hour aren’t running and active the whole time,” says Jill Castle, RD, author of the forthcoming book Eat Like A Champion. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees. In their 2011 clinical report, they state that water is “the appropriate first choice for hydration before, during, and after most exercise regimens”. For typical sports practices and games, electrolytes lost through sweat can be replaced with the next snack or meal. According to the AAP report, “For most children and adolescents, daily electrolyte requirements are met sufficiently by a healthy balanced diet; therefore, sports drinks offer little to no advantage over plain water.”

What these drinks DO offer: A whole lot of stuff children don’t need, like added sugar (as much as 8 teaspoons in a 20-ounce bottle), citric acid that can erode tooth enamel, artificial flavors, synthetic food dyes, and additives like thickeners and stabilizers. Yet the marketing must be working, because every weekend I see parents schlepping packs of neon yellow, blue, and red drinks to the sidelines and passing them around after games.

Yes, there are exceptions. “Middle school and high school athletes may need sports drinks if they’re exercising for longer than an hour, have back-to-back competitive events like an all-day soccer tournament, or are exercising in hot, humid weather that increases the risk for dehydration, such as a heat wave in May when kids aren’t used to the heat or football players in full dress for a game in August,” says Castle.

Otherwise, kids can stay hydrated by drinking water and replenish any lost electroylets through food. For instance, they can get potassium and sodium in a banana and a handful of crackers. Or they can simply come home after their game or practice and sit down for lunch or dinner.

If you’d like to see fewer sports drinks on the sidelines of your child’s team, consider talking to the coach or other team parents. Check out my Sports Snacktivism Handbook for sample emails and other resources for making change happen.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She is the author ofCooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: Sports drinks via Shutterstock

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Sports Drinks and Active Kids

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about what kids should—and shouldn’t—drink, especially when they’re active. And with summer just days away, it’s likely your kids are spending a lot more time outdoors, running around and breaking into a sweat. But should sports drinks be part of their hydration equation?

As I wrote about in a recent post, a new health campaign in California aims to reduce intake of soda, sports drinks and other sugary beverages and increase water intake to reduce obesity.

And if you live in New York City, you’ve probably seen the latest incarnations of the “Are You Pouring on the Pounds” ad campaign, first launched by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 2011. The new ads splashed across buses and featured on TV represent the latest attempt to inform consumers about the high levels of added sugar found in sports and energy drinks, fruity drinks, and sweet tea. The ads also warn consumers that although they sound healthy, sports drinks pack in a lot of added sugars that contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes. On a positive note, the campaign encourages healthful replacements including water, seltzer and fat-free milk.

Any parent of an active child knows that blue, orange, and red sports drinks and vitamin waters are often the beverages of choice at practices and games. These beverages are popular not only because kids like their sweet taste, but because they’re available and advertised everywhere. A recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that in 2010, Gatorade TV ads were ranked among the top five most-advertised products seen by children and adolescents. The fact that these drinks are also endorsed by athletes who many kids emulate only adds to their appeal.

The truth is, whether for sports or recreational activity, most kids don’t need sports drinks. They provide few nutrients and leave less room in the diet for more healthful foods and beverages. They also contribute to tooth decay and erosion of tooth enamel. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that while small amounts may be appropriate for children who participate in vigorous physical activity in hot, humid conditions for more than one hour, most kids who engage in routine physical activity for less than three hours in normal weather need only water. The Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also says sports drinks, which (like soda) are primarily sugar water, are not appropriate for school-age kids. The CSPI also notes these drinks provide added sodium—something many children over consume—and questionable ingredients such as artificial flavors.

So how can we parents help turn the tide, and encourage our kids to have more healthful drinking habits—especially when they’re active? We can take a stand against sports drinks and other sugary beverages by just saying no. We can offer water as the first—and best—hydrator when our kids are thirsty. We can add some flavor to water by infusing it with some fresh fruit slices or a splash of 100 percent fruit juice. In addition to water, we can offer our kids appropriate amounts of nutrient-rich beverages such as low- or nonfat plain milk, fortified soy beverages, and 100 percent fruit juice—options offered in MyPlate and current dietary guidelines.

But we also need to be realistic. We need to realize that we have a lot less control over what our kids drink when they’re away from home than when they’re at home. We can set a healthful example and encourage our kids to drink only water and nutritious beverages when they’re at home or on-the-go with us. But they may very well want to have one of those colorful beverages—or some soda, or a fruity beverage—on the ball field or when with friends who also drink them.

I tell my own children that unless they’re exercising for several hours at a time, water is their best hydrator. I tell them I rather them not consume sports drinks because of their high sugar content. But I also tell them that if they want a sports drink, soda or other sugary beverage once-in-a-while, it’s ok—as long as they count it as a daily treat as they would cookies or candy. Would I rather them avoid nutrient-devoid sugary beverages altogether? Absolutely. But I don’t think an occasional sugary drink is any worse for their bodies or their overall health than a handful or candy or a few cookies.

What are your thoughts? Do you think sports drinks are OK for kids?

Image of young sweaty red faced boy taking drink at halftime of soccer game via Shutterstock.

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