Kids and Sugar - Where Does it End?

What’s right is not always popular, and what’s popular is not always right.

Photo by Yarden on Unsplash

Summer in Wisconsin is here, and I feel like a broken record already. “Put your hat on” followed by, “drink some water!” every single time my boys head out the door. 

Now that I’m one week into packing lunches every day for summer camp, I’m consistently running into the same mental roadblock. Do I put a juice box in their lunch? Even though they have a water bottle I feel like summer is an okay time to splurge a little bit. But as many public health officials tell us, sweetened beverages are essentially “liquid candy,” per WebMD

It doesn’t help when it seems everyone else at camp is getting Gatorade, Cheetos, candy bars (not even kidding), and even soda. So then I have to ask myself, well how much more sugar is there in soda than in a Capri Sun? A

The point is, at what point do we instill limits and boundaries for our children when it comes to sugar? 

We’ve now gone to more birthday parties in the last 3 months than we did in all of 2020 and 2021. And don’t get me wrong, I love a kids’ birthday party just as much as every other parent on a Saturday at 10am, but I am also fully aware as to what I’m walking into. I have yet to attend a single one that didn’t consist of cake, and really, what is a birthday party without cake?

I don’t know if it’s just me though or if it seems like we’re going a little overboard after the COVID hiatus. Like, am I the only one cringing at the fact that we’re serving cake AND a slushie??

According to WebMD, “nearly 90 studies have linked sweetened beverages and children’s weight problems.” Beyond the weight, what’s scary to me are the other health problems that pediatricians “used to find only in adults — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels, which are risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.”

So short of reading The Berenstain Bears’ “Too Much Junk Food” on a regular basis to help our children understand the sugar predicament, what’s a parent to do? 

As for me, I’m empowering my kids to choose for themselves — they get to decide what sweet thing it is they want to have for the day (and knowing, that we won’t have sweets every day) it could be fruit snacks in their lunch one day, and ice cream after dinner the next. If we’re headed to a birthday party we know it will be the cake, so we plan accordingly. It may not be what’s popular, but it’s what’s right for my family and I.

4 Ways to Make Drinking Just Plain Water Fun

  1. Invest in a Flaska: These bottles are made with a special patent which supposedly keeps the water fresh. They also look pretty snazzy, and I’m quite sure my boys feel rather sophisticated drinking out of them. Note however they are glass, so these ones don’t leave the house for outdoor excursions.
  2. Let them “design” their own: My son’s new water bottle is black, which makes the perfect canvas for putting whatever stickers he wants on it. 
  3. Dual purpose ice packs/water volcanoes: Since I am trying to keep lunches extra cool in the summer, I freeze small plastic water bottles, so by lunch time they are somewhat melted. Not only do they get some ice cold water to drink, they keep themselves pretty entertained with the block of ice still stuck inside. 
  4. A bowl or cup of ice: Provided your child is old enough not to choke on ice, this is quite possibly the easiest sensory activity ever. Bonus — they’re hydrating themselves while those ice cubes melt in their mouths, not in their hands (sorry, couldn’t help it). 
Katie Moreno
Katie was born and raised in the small town of Milton, Wis. She graduated from UW-Milwaukee, although spent most of her semesters studying and working abroad. Katie is a food allergy parent, and avid proponent for inclusivity among food minority groups. She thrives on coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice.


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