Many parents pat themselves on the back when they give little Johnny a flavored water rather than a soft drink. But while it might be an improvement from soda, flavored water is far from healthy. As a matter of fact, experts (and everyone else) are now warning against using it as a substitute for the clear stuff, indicating flavored water could make children abhor the real thing.
“My children abhor the taste of plain water,” says one mother to the Huffington Post.
“We always have to add a little bit of juice,” says another.
Where is this problem coming from? Since when do children have the option of hating life-giving water?
“I think it’s a 21-st century issue,” says pediatrician Dr. Rima Himelstein. “I don’t think I ever heard those things before five to 10 years ago.”
Whether soda, juice, or a flavor packet added to water, beverages other than water are training children to push aside anything their taste buds can’t rejoice over. With sugary beverages making up about 15-25% of the daily recommended caloric intake for children ages 2-19, children are already consuming a whopping 7 trillion calories of sugar each year. Although that certainly includes soda, parents are pushing flavored waters thinking that it’s a sound alternative.
But sugar-free isn’t always the answer, either. Many parents think these flavored waters aren’t so bad because they don’t contain sugar, but these companies make their money off of sugar-sweetened beverages. And when sugar isn’t present, the potentially worse substitutes like aspartame are damaging, not to mention other additives like citric acid.
Read: Vitaminwater Targeted by Lawsuits for Misleading Claims
“They’re still training their taste buds to prefer these flavored drinks over water,” explains Dr. Himelstein, who worries along with other experts about the long-term effects of raising children who don’t “do” water.
Research has repeatedly shown the increasing rate at which children are drinking their calories, and the risks that go with that. From 1999 to 2004 (a mere five-year period), calories children received from sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice increased from 242 per day to 270 per day.
Really, there are far more outside efforts pushing children toward unhealthy eating and drinking habits. With flavored water marketing techniques specifically targeting teens,conscientious parents have a lot of work to do to overcome these campaigns. Perhaps the first step is shutting off the television.