As we enjoy some beach time or family barbeques this holiday, there are likely to be lots of chilled drinks floating around. They go down beautifully in the hot summer sun and can make a fun day even more entertaining. While the adults will likely enjoy a bit of alcohol in their beverages, the kids will be more about the colour and the fizz.
The idea of sweet drinks can be a distressing one, because of the potential for sugar highs. Imagine having a bunch of ordinarily boisterous nieces and nephews. Now imagine herding them when they’re amped up on sweets and soda. The horror! Of course, from a dental perspective, the danger is far higher.
The reason dentists warn against (sweets and) fizzy drinks is that they stay in the mouth for longer periods, so the sugars have more opportunity to do damage to your teeth and gums. Sodas contain simple sugars which are broken down faster in the mouth. This makes it easier for the bacteria in your mouth to absorb and feed on them.
The sooner this happens, the sooner said bacteria would excrete acids, and those acids erode your teeth. On average, a glass of cola contains 30g of sugar per cup. Flavoured milk has 25g, while sports drinks have 20g per cup. For reference, a grown-up should take around 40g of sugar a day, which is roughly 10 teaspoons. Children should consume much less.
If you can take a single glass of soda, you’re fine, but we often consume three or four, especially when it’s hot and humid, or if we’re chilling by the pool in the summer. And of course, between the heat and their playing, kids get a lot more thirsty. They won’t realise that their drinks don’t effectively quench their thirst. They’ll just keep coming back for more.
Rather than rationing their sweet liquid intake – which can be quite the challenge, try replacing carbonated beverages with something healthier. It can still be iced, but it will have considerably less sugar than commercial products. Here are a few substitutions you can try.
Tea for soda
Kids love their fizzy drinks, but it’s easy to replace them with a fruity tea. Pick a flavour that matches their favourite commercial drink. Tea bags and infusions are available in hundreds of varieties, and they have the same taste as your kid’s favourite soda with none of the sugar.
Once you’ve selected the right kind, dip three or four tea bags into a litre of boiling water and let them sit for five to ten minutes so that the flavours fully infuse. You can give the tea some extra kick by adding a cup of soda water or sparkling water. It creates a fizzy effect. To fully bring out the flavour, stir in a teaspoon or two of sugar.
Lemons for oranges
Commercial fruit juice can pack up to 25g of sugar per cup, even when they’re completely natural. And since fruit juices aren’t buffered with fibre, the simpler sugar does more damage to teeth. Instead of bottled orange juice, offer your kids some home-made lemon water. Be sure to make lemon water rather than lemonade.
Lemon water contains one teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice added to one glass of water. Stir it in and offer it to the kids. Since it has no added sugar, it will quench their thirst more effectively than juice, and is much healthier. It also has more flavour than plain water. If you must, you can add a teaspoon of honey to the drink.
Coconuts for sports drinks
Sports drinks are marketed as a healthy option because they contain electrolytes and offer instant energy. However, they also contain a lot of sugar, colour, and artificial preservatives. Instead of putting that junk into your kids, entertain them with coconut water. If possible, use a young coconut rather than a packaged product.
For the kids, a drink served out of an actual coconut will appeal to their sense of fun. It may not be as colourful as a bottled sports drink, but it’s playful and organic. If you can only get the packaged variety, serve the kids in bright cups, quirky bottles, and curly straws.
Flavour your own milk
Flavoured milk is quite popular with little ones, and you can easily justify it because it seems healthy. However, commercially flavoured milk contains added sugar and artificial products. It’s better to buy your preferred brand of milk then add some flavour at home. You can use cocoa powder, organic essence, or blended berries.