- U.S. children are drinking more water and less sugar-sweetened beverages, marking a positive shift in consumption habits, with water being the top consumed beverage.
- The choices of beverages can greatly influence diet quality, total calorie intake, and overall health; with beverages like water and milk – including plant-based versions – being healthier alternatives.
- There is a significant variation in beverage consumption based on factors like gender and ethnicity. For example, boys tend to consume more milk while girls drink more water, and soda intake is notably higher amongst black and Hispanic children.
- The disparity among racial groups in regards to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption can partly be attributed to targeted marketing towards young black and Hispanic individuals.
- Despite 100-percent fruit juice being nutritious, moderation in its consumption is essential due to its potential to lead to excess calorie intake owing to lack of fiber.
Recent investigations exhibit that in the United States, children are drinking significantly more water than sweetened beverages such as sodas and fruit juices. According to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, water makes up almost half of all beverage consumption among children.
A Positive Shift in Consumption Habits
In addition to water, milk forms a large portion of U.S. kids’ diets. Together, these two beverages constituted about two-thirds of the drinks consumed by individuals aged between 2 to 19 from 2013 to 2016. This data suggests a significant decrease in the intake of sugary drinks, a prevalent source of sugar in American diets. These findings contribute to the growing body of evidence showing a drop in sugary drink consumption over the past decade.
The Importance of Healthy Beverages
“Kids are now consuming less sugar-sweetened beverages and more healthy alternatives like water and milk, including plant-based milk variations,” stated Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist in New York City. She emphasized that most sugar-infused drinks are devoid of nutritional value and contribute significantly to obesity rates amongst children and adolescents.
Varied Beverage Practices Among Different Groups
However, factors such as gender and ethnicity influence the choice of drink among youth. The researchers found that for black children, beverages like soda made up 30% of their daily drink intake, compared to 22% for Hispanic kids, 18% for whites, and just 9% for Asians. Similarly, the propensity towards certain beverages differed between boys and girls, with boys more likely to drink milk and less likely to drink water than girls.
Kirsten Herrick, the study’s lead researcher and an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), noted, “Beverage consumption habits are not uniform among all U.S. youth.” Since beverages contribute to hydration, energy, vitamin, and mineral intake, the choices one makes can significantly influence diet quality and total calorie intake.
A Closer Look at the Study
The study examined data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between 2013 and 2016. The researchers found that water formed nearly 44 percent of all beverage consumed, followed by milk (22 percent), soda (20 percent), 100-percent fruit juice (7 percent), and other beverages (8 percent).
It was observed that as children age, they consume less milk and juice but significantly more water and soda. Ethnicity and race also influenced the makeup of consumed fluids with water comprising over 55% of fluids consumed by Asian children, 38% among black children, 40% among Hispanic kids. For white kids, this figure stood at 46%.
Marketing and its Impact
Samantha Heller explained that “the disparity among different racial groups is alarming but not unexpected, as there is heavy marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages targeted towards younger individuals, particularly black and Hispanic youths.” A study conducted by Yale University found that in 2013, black children and teenagers viewed over twice as many television ads for sugary drinks than white children.
To counter this, she suggested, “Parents can help children by minimizing screen time, promoting physical activity, and providing healthy dietary options.” Heller commended the increase in water and milk consumption among children and suggested that nutritious beverages should accompany a balanced diet. This can include vegetables like spinach and broccoli, whole grains like brown rice and barley, beans, nuts, and fruits, which can effectively replace fast-food and highly processed snacks.
Nutrition And Juice Intake
The researchers added that although 100-percent fruit juice can be nutritious, it lacks fiber and can lead to an excess calorie intake if not consumed in moderation.
For more insights on healthy beverage options, visit the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.