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Know What Your Kids Are Drinking And Be Careful What You Ban

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This is a good thing, really. But, I do worry that some drinks have gotten a bad rap due to our quest for health.

Last year, the Associated Press reported that the vending machine industry is now stepping up to pull non diet sodas from their machines in public and private schools over the next 3 years. These measures plus State measures in place in 22 States will dramatically cut calories for many of our kids. So, as I started out saying, all good.

But, even better for me was the news in the same report that sports drinks will still be available in high school. Diet drinks will be there, too, but it is the sports drinks I want to see available. Surprising? Not at all when you consider the facts.

I'll touch on the soda issue very briefly because what I really want to talk about is sports drinks. The bottom line on soda for me is I can't really think of a good reason why young kids need to have soda. So, don't give it to them. For tweens, limit soda to once in a while and special occasions but steer them to the diet varieties to limit calories. They are going to be having soda when on their own with their friends so better to help them develop a taste for the diet version than the regular. And, we all know teens drink soda so diet is all that should be available and it is appropriate for them to have more choices even at school as they are almost adults.

As for sports drinks, I have no problem with them being banned for regular use - this is appropriate. Sports drinks were not designed to be utilized as a regular use drink and replace water and milk for our kids. Plus, like soda, sports drinks are empty calories when used as as regular drink.

However, if used as designed, as a rehydration solution, sports drinks do have a significant role for our young athletes, and one that is supported by science. Our young athletes work hard - they sweat and their bodies utilize a great deal of energy when they exercise and play team sports in school. This is true regardless of the outside temperature but even more true if the season is warm. When our kids' bodies work like this, and especially when the temps outside are warm, our kids sweat a great deal loosing sugars and salts as well as water. So, just drinking water along as is the practice now on many sideline won't cut it. Kids do need sports drinks to maintain their balance when all is said and done.

So, I worry that a flat of ban of sports drinks as "bad" is hurting our young athletes and I've seen many a middle school and high school athlete in my office very dehydrated after a game because all that was available on the sidelines was water. I encourage serious young athletes to preload with a sports drink and postload with one as well if all that is available during a game or practice is water to avoid becoming dehydrated and that seems to work well. In fact, I tell parents of all kids participating in youth sports to keep sports drinks at home and I review signs of dehydration to keep an eye on. While the goal is to avoid dehydration, better to treat as soon as you recognize than to miss altogether. If you are not sure what the signs of dehydration are in young athletes, click here.

This is really a long winded way of saying that not all drinks are bad if used at the right ages - and at the right times. And, perhaps it's time us parents acted as better role models at home and just stopped allowing our kids to drink certain drinks. Just a thought.


(Post republished from Dr. Gwenn Is In