As Americans, we train our children to crave sugar at a very young age. Sugar is found is virtually everything these days from ketchup to salad dressing. We have become so accustomed to sugar that we don’t even notice it anymore. We give our children sugary juice drinks and sodas when they are thirsty instead of water. One mother told us that she was actually scolded by another parent for giving her toddler water instead of juice! When did water become bad?
In hotter climates, such as Texas, we are so afraid of dehydration that we push our children to drink all the time. Often we give our children a juice drink, soda, or sports drink instead of water and our children become so dependent on the sugary taste that they drink it even when they aren’t thirsty.
When our toddlers are cranky or bored, we often reach for their sippy cup to quickly change their mood. This creates another problem as the child begins to associate stress with the comfort of sugary drinks. As the child becomes older, he will reach for sodas and other sugar drinks out of habit. Sugary drinks are just like candy to toddlers. A person will reach for candy even if they aren’t hungry. But if you offer water, the child will only drink when they are thirsty!
Consuming too much sugar can cause serious health problems such as diabetes and high cholesterol. When we drink juice, the sugar is absorbed rather quickly which creates a rise in blood sugar. When blood sugar rises, it stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin to assimilate all the sugar in the cells. Overstimulation of the pancreas can cause diabetes later in life. Added sugars in the diet contribute to an increase of bad cholesterol and decrease of good cholesterol. High cholesterol is not just an adult problem anymore.
In order to keep our children healthy, we must start with giving a child water if and when they are thirsty. A child who is given juice and sugary drinks will choose the same as an adolescent and is at a greater risk for future health problems including pre-diabetes. The problem starts at a young age but the habit is much easier to break earlier rather than later.
I discuss this issue more in my book, The Step Up Diet, and I offer simple solutions to help parents learn healthy habits that will stay with their children for life.