By Diana Limongi
A study recently concluded that sugary drinks have an effect on childhood obesity. The title in the NYTimes stated “Sugary beverages linked to higher BMI in Young Children.” My first reaction was… Did we really need a study to tell us that? I’ve been saying that for a while now, there’s a whole movement out there! Well, at least there are studies to back me up when I say “Don’t give my kid soda.”
Soda, my friends, is not your child’s friend. There are no nutritional benefits to drinking soda at any age, and none whatsoever for growing children. People might laugh at me when I politely decline soda or juice for my two year old, but really, he doesn’t need it. That’s the truth. So, if you’re a parent, don’t feel bad if you say no at a gathering, and don’t feel bad if people criticize you. People love to criticize. Instead, empower yourself with facts and impress them with information:
- A 20-ounce soda has 16 teaspoons of sugar.
- The average American consumes 45 gallons of sugary drinks a year. (39 pounds of sugar!)
- Soda companies are heavily advertising in Latino communities—and targeting kids at alarming rates!
- By consuming one small sugary drink a day, kids increase their odds of becoming obese by 60%.
- According to the CDC, in 2010 more than 1/3 of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
It is no surprise that obesity has skyrocketed in this country around the same time that sugary beverage consumption has skyrocketed. Our perception of what is acceptable to drink has changed, so it has become “normal” to drink a 20-ounce drink, when a regular serving is 8 ounces. In addition, soda companies spend millions of dollars advertising to make sure they get you hooked on their products. A recent study showed that Latino children saw 49% more ads for sugary drinks on Spanish-language television than white children.
In the Latino community especially, this can be an uphill battle… many times parents buy soda because of the price or availability, or because of misinformation, they do not know how much sugar is in soda.
I recently had to tell my father to not give soda to my son. “But it’s just a sip.” Well, that’s how it starts, just a sip, then kids like it. They demand it, they get hooked… it may be just a sip today, but those sips add up. They can have real long-term consequences (and they have no nutritional value!!) Obese children are more likely to have prediabetes, suffer from high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Leading by Example
One of the things I’ve learned being a mom is that kids absorb everything around them. They want to imitate you. A few months ago I was thinking to myself “How am I going to say no to soda but still buy it and drink it in front of my son?” So I made a decision- I have to lead by example. I’ve decided to limit soda for special occasions; for every day consumption, I’ve made the switch to flavored seltzer water or plain water.
If children learn to drink water and are not given sugary drinks when they are young, chances are they will continue those habits when they are older. This is what we must start instilling in children when they are small.
Water is the best thirst quenching drink we can offer children, and ourselves as well. Interested in making the switch? Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Don’t buy soda: if you don’t have it at home, you will not consume it!
- Start off with spritzers: half juice, half seltzer, gradually add more water than juice
- If you think water is too plain, look for alternatives:
Cut fruit up in your water
buy flavored seltzer water (but look out for some brands that have sodium.)
- You can also make aguas frescas or homemade lemonade
We, as parents, can make the best decisions for our children. Not drinking soda is one of them. We can empower ourselves and our community. All it takes is small changes to our lifestyles and education; starting is half the battle. #portufamilia
I would love to hear your stories! Share your tips and stories below or tweet me, @dianalimongi
Diana Limongi-Gabriele works hard juggling a full-time job, motherhood, family, grad school and her blog, LadydeeLG, where she writes about issues she is passionate about including teaching her son Spanish, motherhood, parenting, Latino and women’s issues and good quality food. Diana is a regular contributor for Mamiverse, NBC Latino and SpanglishBaby. She has a MA in Migration Studies, and is pursuing an MPA in Nonprofit Management. Her most important job however, is being mommy to Enzo, a French/Hispanic/American (one day trilingual) 2-year-old boy. You can connect with her via Twitter, @dianalimongi or on Facebook.