That's because new research shows parents who drink fizzy drinks set the stage for their kids to do the same.
In most US households with children or teens, fizzy drinks have become a staple. The average intake of fizzy drinks by children aged two to 17 has increased from about 205 ml per day in 1989 to 285 ml per day in 1995 - a 38 percent increase. Among teen boys, the intake is higher; they gulp down an average of nearly 660 ml a day.
This excess soda consumption is partly to blame for rising overweight and obesity rates. And some research has linked too much soda consumption to a rise in blood pressure, especially in black teens, perhaps increasing the risk of hypertension later on.
Set a good example
So, if you want your kids to cut down on the fizzy drinks, you must start by setting a good example, claims research in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
When Mary Story, a professor of public health nutrition at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and her colleagues evaluated the soda drinking habits of 560 children, aged eight to 13, they found that youths whose parents regularly drank fizzy drinks were nearly three times more likely to drink fizzy drinks five or more times a week compared to those youths whose parents didn't drink fizzy drinks.
Not surprisingly, the kids who really liked the taste were also more likely to drink fizzy drinks. If they had a taste preference for fizzy drinks, they were 4,5 times more likely to drink it five or more times a week, Story's team found.
In the study, about 30 percent of the children who responded consumed fizzy drinks every day; only 18 percent reported drinking them less than once a week. And 85 percent of the students surveyed said they typically drank regular fizzy drinks, not diet, boosting the calorie and sugar intake for the day.
Wean your kids off fizzy drinks
Since setting a good example might not be enough to change this unhealthy eating habit, here are other ways to wean your kids off fizzy drinks:
- Go cold turkey: Here's the script Story suggests: "It's a new year, and we're not having fizzy drinks in the house." She put the plan into action years ago, telling her children, now college students, that fizzy drinks wouldn't typically be in the house but would be reserved for special occasions out, and perhaps for holidays and birthdays at home. They adapted, she said. There's nothing wrong with the cold turkey approach, agreed Lona Sandon, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "The good news is that fizzy drinks are not addictive," she said, "so going cold turkey to break the habit is not going to hurt anyone."
- Have alternatives ready: "Fill a pitcher with water and keep it in the refrigerator," Story said. "Or keep 100 percent juice in the house." On hot days, lemonade is OK, she added. Non-caloric flavoured water or sparkling waters are other good options.
- Spell out why you're anti-fizzy drinks: "One can of fizzy drink has the equivalent of 9,5 teaspoons of sugar, or one-quarter of a cup," said Jeannie Moloo, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Put this amount in a baggie, measure it out, and show it to your kids. It's quite effective." According to the US Department of Agriculture, you should add no more than 10 teaspoons of sugar a day to your diet if you consume 2 000 calories daily.
- Get involved in a "Can the Fizzy Drink" campaign at school: Moloo did this a few years back. "I went and talked to the administrators of my son and daughter's elementary school...," she said. She also joined a parent committee that succeeded in getting fizzy drink dispensers out of the school.