Sidestep the sugary drinks

Mikala Atkinson, Nutritionist

Soft drinks are all around us and often within arm’s reach. So is it healthier to encourage your kids to reach for a lemon or orange flavoured bubbly beverage over a popular cola variety that may contain caffeine?

The answer is no. Fruit flavoured soft drinks do not provide a healthier alternative to others on the market. All soft drinks were created equally – packed full of sugar!

And if soft drinks are off the menu, don’t be fooled into thinking that other sugary drinks such as cordial, fruit drinks, energy drinks, iced teas or nutrient waters are any better. Although these are cleverly marketed as healthy alternatives to soft drinks, they are often still packed full of sugar and offer little to no nutritional benefit.

Pester power is real and provides an ongoing challenge for parents! Lining the shelves at every turn, sugary drinks are cheap to buy, come in brightly coloured, attractive packaging and are often seen in the hands of popular celebrities and sports stars, which only makes them seem more appealing.   

This can make the discussion around continuing to choose water a bit of a battle, but one that is worth it in the long run. Water is essential to life and helps with healthy digestion and regulating body temperature, not to mention being free and containing zero sugar.

So how do you sidestep sugary drinks?

Fill up before you head out

Try not to leave the house without a water bottle. Encourage everyone to fill up before you head out. This includes a trip to the shops, the movies, after school sports, a friend’s place or the park. If you have water on hand to hydrate and quench your thirst, you are less likely to end up having a discussion around purchasing drinks.

water bottle

Talk about cost

Talk to your kids about the cost of buying drinks - it all adds up and is money that could be saved for something else. Water is free and available at the turn of a tap. Frequently purchasing sugary drinks is a bit like pouring money down the drain.  

piggy bank

Provide healthy alternatives 

Encourage school fundraisers and community run events to provide water or other healthy alternatives to sugary drinks. Whilst school canteens are governed by the Healthy Food and Drinks Policy, when it comes to P&C run events the rules aren’t enforced. We want our children to enjoy an environment where sugary drinks are not front and centre. Suggest a soda stream station or water bubbler to be the focal point instead.  

water flavoured with fruit

Learn to read the label 

Check out our decoding food labels page and learn to read the nutrition information panel together – that way you can all make informed decisions. If you do choose to purchase a drink on occasion, you can look for healthy choices available with little to no sugar added. This does not mean reaching for artificially sweetened beverages either, which are linked to poor health outcomes and aren’t good for a healthy gut. Look for sparkling water with natural flavours added, unsweetened iced tea or a kombucha.  

Label reading card
Take our food label reading card with you next time you head to the shops. Order here.