SMArt Kids : Drinks can have a not-so-sweet surprise

| Posted On Jun 04, 2013 | By:

child reaching for sodaThe SMArt Kids had a sweet time at our recent May SMA. They enjoyed the expertise of Linda Germaine-Miller, our SMArt Kids Nutritionist, and of Chip Wilder, LICSW, from the Burlington Behavioral Health Department. At a past SMA, Chip introduced the concept of mindfulness to our group, and he reinforced the importance of mindful eating this month. He taught us that mindful eating is remaining aware of and accepting what you are experiencing (sensing, feeling, and thinking) before you eat and as you eat. Think about being mindful at your next meal.

We tried to be mindful in the second part of the SMA when we turned to the topic of sugared beverages.  A little “food for thought:”

Perhaps you didn’t know, but our SMArt Kids knew! We reviewed the importance of limiting sugar, specifically when it comes to sweetened beverages. Too much sugar isn’t healthy for us. Excessive sugar intake can contribute to tooth decay, obesity, higher triglyceride levels, lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL, also called “good”) cholesterol levels, and heart disease.  The high caloric intake of these sugared beverages can lead to weight gain.  (Remember: 1 soda per day for 1 year can lead to a 15-pound weight gain.) These sugary drinks also have no nutritional value; they can’t fill you up the way other solid food can so you will consume more calories than needed.

We investigated the quantity of sugar in common drinks. In the illustration below, one sugar cube is equal to 4 grams of sugar, 1 sugar packet or 1 teaspoon. We quickly discovered that every bottle of soda, sports drink, juice, and iced tea has too much sugar, many have as much as 30 grams per serving!

SMArt kids soda and sugar cubes

While water and low fat white milk (skim and 1%) are the best choices, SMArt kids and parents both offered great suggestions for other low-sugar drink options:

If you aren’t picking low fat milk or water, remember to read drink labels closely. Ideally, the sugar content should read 0-5 grams per serving, but shoot for zero grams if you can… the less sugar, the better.

Don’t forget, too, that the bottle sizes can be misleading, so always remember to check the serving size. The label to the left has 2.5 servings in one 20-ounce bottle so it means that the whole bottle has 2.5 times the amount of sugar listed on the label. A whole bottle has 75 grams of sugar in it! That is about 18 teaspoons of sugar!

SMArt Kids bottle label v2


With the warm weather upon us, say “No thank you” to the lemonade stand, the Gatorade at soccer practice, the soda at the family BBQ.  Grab the water bottle instead. Our SMArt Kids are working hard on the goal of reducing their sugared beverage intake and all of their monthly goals. Keep up the SMArt work!

Brittanny Boulanger, MD


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About Dr. Brittanny Boulanger

Joined Harvard Vanguard: 2005 Undergraduate School: Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH Medical School: University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA Internship: Golisano Children's Hospital, Rochester, NY Residency: Golisano Children's Hospital, Rochester, NY Board Certification: Pediatrics Hospital Affiliations: Children's Hospital, Boston, MA; Winchester Hospital, Winchester, MA Clinical Interests: Newborn medicine and adolescent medicine Personal Interests: Running, soccer, hiking, skiing, travel and spending time with her two young children.

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