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How much sugar is your child drinking?
As the temperature heats up, so too does our need to drink enough fluid to keep hydrated. Hydration is particularly important for children, as they do not cool their bodies as efficiently as adults, and are less likely to recognise when they are thirsty. So as we move into another hot Aussie Summer, here are the most common fluids we offer our kids and what they are actually getting when they drink them.
Milk is a nutrient dense choice of fluid but unlike water contains a significant calorie load. For this reason, including 3 serves of dairy which may include milk does form part of a balanced diet but you can consume too much. In fact consuming more than 500ml of milk each day once your child reaches the age of 12 months is linked to a number of issues including iron deficiency. For this reason a small glass or two of milk is no issue as part of a balanced diet but it cannot be consumed freely. A small glass of milk contains 10g of sugars which come from the naturally occurring sugar lactose. Flavoured milk on the other hand contain up to 30g of sugars and as such should only be consumed occasionally.
Cordial, like soft drink, is a nutrient poor, high calorie food choices and needs to be limited in the diet, for both adults and children. A single glass of cordial contains more than 4 teaspoons of sugar per serve as well as a number of colours and flavours best left out of the diets of small children altogether.
For many reasons, freshly squeezed fruit juice epitomizes good health, and while fresh fruit is a nutrient dense snack choice; packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals; the concentration of fresh fruit juice means that it can contain up to 6 teaspoons of sugar in a single serve, way too much for small children at any time. Fruit juice is also highly acidic, which can act to erode tooth enamel and cause decay. For this reason it is best left out of bottles and cups of babies and small children entirely.
Vitamin waters have been available for a number of years, but have experienced a recent resurgence courtesy of powerful marketing campaigns that align these waters with attractive mind-body states such as “vitality” and “energy”. While these rather expensive waters do contain added vitamins, the harsh reality is that the vitamins that have been added are rarely lacking in the diets of children or adults and with more than 5 teaspoons of sugar per serve, they are another option best avoided.
Sports drinks are a specially formulated mix of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates and mineral salts which were originally developed for elite athletes to aid in the recovery and re-hydration process after competition. While sports drinks have a specific role in high level sport, for children participating in recreational sport they are an unnecessary source of added sugars in the diet. A bottle of sports drink contains between 9-11 teaspoons of sugars.
With up to nine teaspoons of sugar per 375ml can, there is no place in the diet of children for soft drink. It does not matter if it is lemonade, cola or berry flavoured soft drink, it all contains the same amount of sugars per serve, which is way too much for an adult at any one time let alone a child. And while diet options may not contain sugars, they are still highly acidic and a nightmare for young teeth.
A popular ‘health’ drink, while coconut water is lighter in sugars than cordial, juice and soft drink with 14g or 3.5 teaspoons per 200ml bottle, coconut water is not significantly better than fruit juice. While it is a rich source of potassium, it is still adding a concentrated source of sugars into the diets of small children for whom it is suggested they consume not more than 20g of added sugars per day in total.
Water should be the main fluid of choice for children. Not only do small children need to learn that water is the first choice of fluid but not offering sweet drinks helps to ensure they do not develop a preference for sweet drinks. Not only does keeping hydrated ensure children perform at their best but it also helps to helps to prevent fatigue, keep bowel habits regular and manage mood on a daily basis. Get your child to drink more water by always keeping their chilled water bottle or cup handy and offer water at regular intervals. Even better, the more they see you drink, the more they will reach for their bottle too and when children learn to drink water early, they will maintain the habit long term. Water contains no sugars, and an easy way to encourage your child to drink more water is to invest in a Thermos FUNtainer® where they can enjoy their chilled water along with their favourite characters minus any extra sugars.
Sugars in drinks
Drink | Sugar (g) | Tsp. sugar
Fruit Juice | 22 | 4
Large Boost Juice | 44 | 9
Banana Smoothie | 53 | 10
Iced Tea | 22 | 4 ½
600ml soft drink | 65 | 13
Hot chocolate | 29 | 6
Coconut water | 14 | 3
Glass of cordial | 20 | 4
Sports drink | 45 | 9