Drinking your Calories

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The options for drinks seem to be at an all time high with energy and sport drinks, new flavored sodas, tropical fruit juices, fancy vitamin water, and even water with protein appealing to all ages. Sodas and sport drinks, however, can have as much as 13 teaspoons of added sugar. It is especially important to look at the serving size on the nutrition label. So if you quickly read that a beverage bottle says 80 calories, you may need to look again. For example, if the serving size sates 2.5 servings/bottle, you need to do the math. In this case, the 80 calories beverage actually contains 200 calories. Similarly, not all fruit juice is alike. Many do provide 100% juice but be careful of marketing. SunnyD® may look like orange juice and sell you on it's 100% vitamin C, however it's second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup as well as other ingredients not found in juice.

So what is a parent to do? Certainly, 100% fruit juice can be counted as a serving of fruit in a child's diet. Just be careful of portion sizes. Offering OJ in a small glass (4- 6 oz) is great at breakfast but shouldn't be the main choice of the day. Orange slices would be a great option, providing beneficial fiber and phytochemicals. If the soccer moms are bringing in sports drinks, you may need to be the one to point out that water is just fine. Sport drinks can be useful for the athlete who vigorously exercises for more than an hour, but isn't necessarily needed for kids, teens, or adults. It is more important that you child is hydrated. Have your son or daughter drink water at least a half hour before his/her practice. Bring a water bottle to ensure he can drink during breaks in the game. Offering watermelon after the game is great as it contains 90% water. Finally, most adults and kids get plenty of protein (think cheese, milk, peanut butter, chicken, tofu, etc). Adding protein to a beverage just comes down to marketing again. Similarly, children consume plenty of vitamins in real food as well as fortified cereals and bread. Drinking vitamin water adds no real health benefit.