Maintaining a healthy diet isn’t just about the food your child eats. Are you paying attention to what he drinks too?
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Drinking an adequate amount of fluids is important for children to ensure they stay regularly hydrated, but the kinds of fluids they consume are just as important. If your child has a habit of drinking unhealthy beverages, this can have a negative impact on his overall health in both the short and long term.
Meave Graham, registered dietitian, formerly of Child Nutrition Singapore, gives a few examples of how some of these beverages can affect your child’s physical health. “Sugary drinks can promote tooth decay and can contribute to excessive weight gain. “Sports drinks” can also be high in salts (electrolytes) which can be harmful to kidney and cardiac function. “Energy drinks” can contain caffeine which is contraindicated in this age group as it is a stimulant and can cause headaches and sleep disturbance. Even sugar-free squashes are acidic in nature and can cause dental erosion,” she says.
Drinking unhealthy beverages may also result in a higher risk of
your child developing diseases due to the high levels of added sugars.
“Reports from the World Health Organisation and the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in 2015 found that consuming food and drinks high in added sugars in childhood can increase the risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity-related cancers and dental caries,” says Graham.
Furthermore, drinking sweetened and energy-dense beverages can make your child feel fuller, thus causing him to have less appetite to eat, according to Kellie Kong, dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics Department, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. This means there is less opportunity for your child to consume wholesome and nutritious foods.
Don’t Drink These
Sweetened beverages such as sodas are obvious ones to avoid as they don’t provide any form of nutrients for children. Kong highlights soft drinks, sports or isotonic drinks, and energy drinks as some beverages that parents should avoid giving their children. This is because these drinks “can be high in empty calories and sugar content, with minimal or no nutritional value”, she explains.
Kong also emphasises that artificially sweetened beverages marketed as zero sugar and calories should not be consumed too often because “frequent consumption may cultivate a child’s preference for sweet drinks and the drinks’ acidity may be harmful to dental health”.
Caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee should
be avoided as well because they can lead to insomnia,
hyperactivity and reduced appetite in children.
“Tea and coffee also contain polyphenols such as tannins, which have been shown to interfere with iron absorption. Iron is an important mineral that transports oxygen around the body and plays a part in the proper functioning of the immune system,” says Kong.