Monday, January 25, 2016

Kids and Soda Pop

    I now must be certifiably old because I feel a need to write about how things were better in the olden days.

     Truth is, there were a whole lot of things that were not better in the olden days like no such thing as a salad bar, and family grocery store trips only on Saturday because dad took the one family car to work, and stores didn't stay open late, either.  That new idea of a little store being open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. was a big deal. Wow, 7-11!  Preschool was a rare animal in the old days, too.

     But, I digress. Back to what was better 50 years ago.

     When I was young, children drank water and milk from a glass.  A washable, reusable glass.  Beverages like apple cider and root beer were considered party foods.  Once in a while you got a treat of a soda pop, warm cocoa or chilled juice. My grandmother used to comment on how fancy my mother was for putting ice in the water glasses for Sunday dinner. There was such a thing as a juice glass back then for drinking breakfast juice, and the little glass held about 6 ounces.

     Women at parties would say things like "Oh, I can't drink a whole can of pop, do you want to share one?"  Glass party punch cups held literally only one cup.

     Boy, have times changed.  There are drink holders in cars and children’s car seats because we would hate to go a few miles without a beverage, Big Gulps, soda pop with Happy Meals, 2 liter bottles in the Fridge, omnipresent pouches of something almost-like-juice, and extra amped energy drinks for when a Coke is not enough.

     Nationally it has been reported that 42% of children are drinking soda pop daily and many more almost daily, and researchers saw a correlation with all that pop and aggressive behavior and lack of attention.  Is there really anyone who believes that all this pop is good for our kids?  Well, other than my brother-in-law who believes that his 4-5 Diet Cokes a day is the reason he has never called in sick a day in his life.  

     American kids get too much sugar: 22 teaspoons a day. (Read the National Geographic August 2013 article about American sugar consumption. It suggests that Americans are addicted to sugar.)  Beverages are a big part of the problem.  Many drinks quietly lull us into drinking a lot of sugar with no nutrition to back up those calories. Fake sugar in diet drinks is not really healthy either, and distorts our sense of how much sweetness we need.

     Sugar in drinks is bad for the teeth (and most of the rest of the body,) and the carbonation is worse. My kids don't have great tooth enamel and our dentist warned us that more than two carbonated beverages a week would ruin their teeth. We all like fizzy drinks, but having teeth when you are old is a big perk.

     Colas drinks are probably the biggest concern.  Giving children a beverage that will make them more awake and wired is just crazy. I know that the night a neighbor sent a 6-pack of Dr. Pepper to a sleepover of 8 year-old boys at my house was the longest night of my life.  But that is little compared to what it does to the body. Besides the sugar and carbonation, cola drinks cause metabolic acidosis and change the pH level in the body and to rebalance itself, the body leaches minerals from the bones, making bones weaker.  Medical studies show that girls even by age 15 break bones many times more frequently if they are cola drinkers. Not only that, cola drinks are a diuretic, and actually dehydrate the body, not replenish water. Time to remember the milk ad, “It does a body good.”  Having good bones when you are old, like 30, is a really big perk.

    I think that we, in the American culture, enjoy soda and we naturally share it with our kids. We want every day to feel like a party, and it seems like we can provide happiness in a cup to our children.  Maybe we need to rethink patterns that have evolved in our culture and the unspoken notion that sugar equals happiness. It’s time to exercise some restraint and do what is genuinely best for the kids. Life doesn’t have to feel like a constant party.  Let the kids drink water, in a cup, please.

© Diane Mangum