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What Does Your Child Drink?
Image: Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

We know that water is very important for children as they are very active and tend to sweat a lot especially in this hot climate. The Malaysian Dietary Guideline recommends that children between two to six years should have four to six glasses of water everyday. There are many different types of beverages in the market targeting mainly at children. Making sure that your child consumes enough fluid is important, but we must also ensure that the child consumes the right type of fluids.

In general, all packaged beverages contain added sugar, even those marketed for specific health benefits, unless stated otherwise. In addition, many of the beverages contain very limited nutrients but contain many chemicals such as food additives and colourings. These beverages would not only spoil your child’s teeth but also serve as empty calories. Giving the sweetened beverages to a child would only make him/ her get addicted to sweets, which is a habit that leads to excessive calorie intake. In the long run, this will lead to childhood obesity.

Let’s have look at the sugar content of various popular drinks in the market:

Drinks (per 250 ml) Sugar content (teaspoons)
Instant cereal drinks
Chocolate milk drink
Yogurt drink
Sports drink
Tea drink
Soya milk
Cola drink
Fruit drink

* Different packaged drinks come in different volume; most of them are more than 250ml

So, how do you make sure that you choose the right beverages for your child? Read the food label. Look for the sugar content in each drink and make comparisons. If your child does not have weight problems, one sweetened beverage per day as a part of balanced diet is acceptable.
Obesity is a complex problem and no single food or beverage would lead to obesity on itself. But, if your child has the tendency to gain weight or is already having weight problems, it is best to keep the sweet beverages away. If your child is already addicted to sweet beverages and refuses to drink other beverages, put in some patience into teaching them about the disadvantages of sweet beverages. It might take some time, because getting the child to change does not happen overnight.

Here are some tips on switching your child to healthier drinking habit:

  1. Dilute the sweet beverages – it helps in “diluting” their cravings too
  2. Offer them healthier choices – plain water, iced water, plain milk
  3. Prepare a water bottle with plain water for your child – make it a habit for them to drink plain water
  4. Stock single-serving drinks at home – teach them about serving size control
  5. Reward them for quitting soft drinks

Reference:

  1. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Adolescent and School Health. Reducing Access to Sugar-sweetened Beverages Among Youth. 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/features/healthybeverages/
  2. Ministry of Health Malaysia, National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition. Malaysia Dietary Guidelines. 2010
  3. WebMD. Children and Sweetened Drinks: What’s a Parent to Do? http://children.webmd.com/features/children-and-sweetened-drinks-whats-a-parent-to-do