Ask Jill
03.19.2019

As a whole community do we have responsibility for our children in choosing healthier beverages?

Yes. If we are to embrace healthy lifestyles it needs to start with choices of our children, for as adults, we highly influence the decisions of our children.  Sugary beverages have a significant impact on health.  Many people may be surprised that the American Heart Association reports sugary drinks represent “the largest source of daily calories in the diets of American children” and that “sugary drinks provide nearly half of children’s added sugars intake and do not typically provide any positive nutritional value.”  Most concerning is the finding the Heart Association reports that, “consuming sugary drinks – such as fruit drinks with added sugar, sports drinks, and soda – poses a real health risk to kids including increased likelihood of childhood obesity and Type 2 Diabetes which is the fastest growing chronic condition. For every additional serving of sugary beverage that a child consumes increases the likelihood of obesity by 60% and the likelihood of type 2 diabetes by 26%.” That’s a future we want to help all of our children avoid.

This week, the Vermont Senate will be considering a bill (S.141) relating to healthy kid’s meals in restaurants that was passed out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Friday. It calls on restaurants to replace soda as the default beverage in children’s meals with water, milk, 100% fruit juice, or other healthier options. The bill is clear that restaurants would still be able to provide a different beverage, such as soda, with the children’s meal if the customer requests it.  This is an important conversation because statistics show that “half of meals in the United States are purchased outside of home and children get an average of 25% of their calories from restaurant foods and beverages.” Please reach out to your legislators and let them know your thoughts on this bill.

While this discussion is happening at the State policy level, it speaks to a healthy habit that each of us can adopt for ourselves and in our own families. While it likely occurs to each of us how many desserts we are eating a day and how that might impact our weight, the impact of what we are drinking may not be so apparent. However, as the statistics above show, the impact can be very significant and things like diet soda may not be as healthy as they sound.  Making informed choices regarding what we eat and drink, and what our children eat and drink, is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. The RiseVT community movement to embrace healthier lifestyles, the dietitians on NMC’s Lifestyle Medicine team, and our local Primary Care and Pediatric providers can all help. Talk to your doctor or advanced practice provider about what beverages are best for you. Water is truly the best drink option!  Connect with us online at www.risevt.org and watch the media and social media for fun educational sessions from the NMC dietitians, such as the popular “Market Tour with a Dietitian” being held as a free RiseVT “show up” events in local grocery stores.

I find that being attentive to healthy choices helps me feel better day to day and I know it helps reduce risk for health problems and chronic disease. Let’s all think about what we are choosing to drink and how it fits into our overall health, and for our kids as well. Together let’s start with drinking more water!

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer