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3 Kid Friendly Alternatives to Soda


Growing up, soda was the rare treat in my home.  I thought my parents were part of some terrible Cult of the Anti-Happy People. My and my sister’s protestations fell silently on my mother’s country-rooted, grow-your-own-food and don’t trust what you can’t make, ears.  My father was the enforcer and so the rule remained: except for a once-a-year ice cream soda for dessert, no soda was the standard!

Now, thirty years later, it still is something I don’t drink. And I raised my daughter the same way. But today, I seem to have slipped through a mind-bending wrinkle in time; I looked in the mirror the other day and saw my mother looking back at me, one eyebrow raised in that way only mothers seem to do. And that no-soda tradition? I passed it right along to my daughter, now a middle-schooler who has earned out-to-lunch privileges. As a result what does she do when sodas and caramel-colored “iced tea” beckons from the shelves? She chooses water.  “Soda’s fattening.  It makes me get pimples. Basically, it has negative effects on my body,” she said one Friday night last month.

But my daughter is the product of two generations of water and tea drinking, no TV-watching, adults.  Plus I make it worse for her because I mostly work from home as a writer and editor, which means I have the ability to be a hawk, much to my teen’s dismay.  For most us this kind of annoying parental hawking is not possible as our kids are surrounded by outside influences.  And now a recent Yale University study shows that marketing agencies are targeting Hispanic teens 99 percent more than their white counterparts—making it even more difficult to keep them away from the influence of drinking high caloric drinks.

A UC San Francisco study by Anisha Indravadan Patel, entitled “Increasing Water Intake In Lieu of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages among Latino Youth,” confirms as much. This issue is of particular significance among Latino youth as they are more likely to drink sodas and other heavily sugared beverages—and less likely to drink tap water—than white and Asian children.  It’s that consumption—for their long-term effects—that worries.  Latino children are roughly 10 percent more likely to be obese than white childrenand according to news out of  Harvardsoda is now a major contributor to teen caloric intake (beating out pizza!), and worse, a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. This sets Latino children up for all sorts of potentially deadly health diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Last night I asked my daughter if weight gain and the fear of pimples weren’t factors, would she still drink soda?  Yes, she reluctantly admitted.  She has had it at birthday parties and special dinners and, she said, “It does taste really good.”

So how can parents provide healthier alternatives that deliver the same kind of desire as a sizzling drink? Create new ones. Here are three tasty,  low-caloric alternatives I give my daughter, and that you can use  to help counter the cravings—and advertisements—for soda that your kids face.

#1. Fruit Fizzies

Fruit fizzies are a combination of 1/3 pure juice and 2/3 plain carbonated water like seltzer or sparkling water. Orange and pineapple juices are a sweet, easy sell. Buy the kind in your supermarket that does not have added sugar or color.  You can also combine fruit purees with seltzer. Just blend berries (frozen or fresh), mangos, or other fruits in a blender and add the carbonated water.

#2. Fruit Tea Coolers

Fruit-flavored tea bags are an almost instant way to flavor water.  Make a flavored herbal tea like peach, strawberry or blackberry and sweeten with low-glycemic Agave or even honey.  Refrigerate until it’s cooled and pour it over ice.  It’s an inexpensive—and healthy—alternative to soda.  And no caffeine!

# 3. Apple/Cucumber Water

This is an ultra-refreshing change of pace, especially in the summer months. Simply add sliced apples and cucumbers to a pitcher of water, and chill for at least 30 minutes. Try tossing in fresh mint, too.

Finally, if you really want to provide your kids with a soda treat every once in a while, consider the variety of natural sodas on the market like Hansen’s.  They still contain a lot of sugar, but are at least free of artificial additives and caffeine, making them a better choice—in moderation—for your child’s health.

Provided by out friends at VidaVibrante

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  • July 8, 2013

    All three suggestions were a big hit with my 5 year old son. It can be such a challenge to get him to drink anything not sweet, but this is helping to ween him off.

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