What are your kids drinking?

By Chantelle Fabre, LWDI Intern

What are Sugar Sweetened Beverages:

Are you contributing to the childhood obesity rate by allowing your children to drink sugar sweetened beverages? Sugar sweetened beverages (SSB): are considered to be liquids that are sweetened with various forms of sugars. A few Examples are sodas, fruit juices, sport drinks, and energy drinks. Sugar sweetened beverages represent the largest source of added sugars and the main contributor to calories in children’s diets.1

Health Concerns:

Sugar-sweetened beverages provide little to no nutritional benefits. Studies show intake of sugar sweetened beverages in infants and childhood years are associated with increased risks for health concerns: dental caries, weight gain, enlarged waist circumference, Type 2 Diabetes, overweight/obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Sugar sweetened beverage consumption is also linked to early puberty in children. Sugar and caffeine in sodas can contribute to poor sleep patterns and weight gain. There is also a link between sugar sweetened beverages and hyperactivity/inattention symptoms in children.1,2,3

What has The World Health Organization Discovered:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has discovered that over 42 million kids under the age of 5 years of age are either overweight or obese.  The prevalence of overweight or obese children and adolescents aged 5-19 years is now 18% globally. 1

Guidelines for Sugar Intake:

The World Health Organization  recently announced a guideline for both children and adults that sugar intake both added and natural should be less than 10% of their total energy. The American Heart Association recommends that children 2 years and older consume no more than 8 ounces of sugary drinks per week. Any child under 2 years of age should not have added sugar in their diets. The lower the amount of sugar sweetened beverages consumed by children the lower the risk of childhood obesity there is. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children ages 1-3 should have no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day, 4-6 no more than 4-6 ounces a day, and children ages 7-18 should have no more than 8 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day. Whole fruit should be the first choice since it has fiber and less calories compared to fruit juices that have no additional nutritional value compared to whole fruit.1,4,5,6

Sugar Sweetened Beverage Consumption:

Sugar sweetened beverage intake is not a problem just here in the United States, but across the globe.  Sugar sweetened beverages consumption has increased dramatically since 1988 with it contributing to 10-15% of total calories to the diets of children. Mexico has one of the highest consumptions of sugar sweetened beverages contributing 20-23% of their total energy intake. Between 1999-2006 Mexican children have increased their consumption of sugar sweetened beverages by 226%. Sugar sweetened beverages also contribute to over 20% of the United Kingdom children’s added sugar intake. At the current rates of consumption each child in the US ingests on average a total of 55,000kcals per year just from sugar sweetened beverages. Approximately 15% of Australian adolescents’ energy intake comes from added sugars. The Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study reported that 10.7% of infants 9-12 months and 14.3% of 12-15-month old’s consumed sugar sweetened beverages a day. 1,2,3,5

Is 100% Fruit Juice a Gateway:

Even 100% fruit juice consumption needs to be limited. Some researchers consider that fruit juice can become a gateway to children consuming sugar sweetened beverages. Increased consumption of fruit juice can decrease milk consumption in children. It can also be linked to weight gain in children. It has similarities to sugar sweetened beverages such as simple sugars being the main calorie source in juice. A study by NHANES, showed concern that when preschool aged children consumed at least 12 ounces of 100% fruit juice were more likely to become overweight compared to those who drank less than 12 ounces a day. 

Tips to reduce added sugar intake:

  • Give children water instead of juices 
  • Give whole fruit over fruit juices 
  • Read nutrition labels 
  • Avoid sodas & other beverages with added sugars 

In nutrition there is no single food source that is to blame on the obesity epidemic across the globe, but sugar sweetened beverages does represent the world’s largest source of added sugar in the diets of both children and adults. 


  1. Cantoral A, Téllez-Rojo MM, Ettinger AS, Hu H, Hernández-Ávila M, Peterson K. Early introduction and cumulative consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages during the pre-school period and risk of obesity at 8-14 years of age. Pediatric Obesity. 2015;11(1):68-74. doi:10.1111/ijpo.12023
  2. Bleakley A, Jordan A, Mallya G, Hennessy M, Piotrowski JT. Do You Know What Your Kids Are Drinking? Evaluation of a Media Campaign to Reduce Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2017;32(6):1409-1416. doi:10.1177/0890117117721320
  3. Scharf RJ, Deboer MD. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Childrens Health. Annual Review of Public Health. 2016;37(1):273-293. doi:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032315-021528.
  4. Hardy LL, Bell J, Bauman A, Mihrshahi S. Association between adolescents’ consumption of    total and different types of sugar-sweetened beverages with oral health impacts and weight status. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2017;42(1):22-26. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.12749. .
  5. Macintyre AK, Marryat L, Chambers S. Exposure to liquid sweetness in early childhood: artificially‐sweetened and sugar‐sweetened beverage consumption at 4–5 years and risk of overweight and obesity at 7–8 years. Pediatric Obesity. 2018;13(12):755-765. doi:10.1111/ijpo.12284
  6. Muth ND, Dietz WH, Magge SN, et al. Public Policies to Reduce Sugary Drink Consumption in Children and Adolescents. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/143/4/e20190282?rss=1. Published April 1, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2021. 

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