Teaching kids healthy habits should be a top priority for parents. Raising your kids to make healthy choices at a young age sets the bar for a healthy lifestyle as adults. If your children become used to healthy habits now, those behaviors will become innate as they grow. It can be a daunting task, but one way to kick start a better lifestyle is by changing your family’s unhealthy habits. One you may want to change sooner rather than later is drinking soda regularly.
The Dangers of Soda
It’s not a surprise that soda contains excessive amounts of sugar (a 12-ounce can contains between 8 and 10 teaspoons of sugar; the World Health Organization recommends only 6 teaspoons of sugar a day), but earlier this year, the Framingham Heart Study found a correlation between the sugary drinks and mental health. Researchers found that those who drink soda frequently are more likely to have poorer memory, along with smaller overall brain volume and a smaller hippocampus (a part of the brain responsible for memory). For children (and adults), memory is vital to their ability to learn. Anything that could risk damaging or lowering their capacity to learn should be avoided.
Sodas are bad, but don’t replace your child’s soda intake with diet drinks – they might actually be worse for your health. The same Framingham Heart Study found links between diet soda, dementia, and stroke. As of now, only an association has been found, but diet soda should still be consumed with caution and sparsely, especially when considering other consequences. To get the name “diet” soda, these drinks are sweetened using artificial sweeteners that researchers have found can actually cause weight gain, particularly around the stomach, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes, inflammation, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Soda’s high amounts of sugar can also affect memory in the short term which can undermine your child’s academic performance. Consuming sugar before taking on a school assignment (or any challenging work) causes the brain to release a stress hormone, disrupting your child’s use of memory. Typically, this manifests through children being distracted and fidgety, rather than focused. By eating sugar daily at school, children can lose focus in a number of important lessons or during tests. If occurring regularly, these distractions can add up and harm their academic performance.
No More Soda?
Like most things in life, moderation is key. It’s not the end of the world if your child drinks a soda at a birthday party, or if you want to keep them around the house as a special treat. The danger for any unhealthy foods or drinks comes from consuming them daily. An easy way to cut back in your home is to avoid picking up sodas at the grocery store weekly and not allowing them to become a household staple. Leave them for special occasions. If your child buys lunch or uses vending machines at school, talk to them about healthy choices and what soda can do to their minds and bodies. Push them in the right direction by setting a solid and healthy example at home.