Are sports drinks safe for kids?
Do you find yourself reaching for a sports drink when your kid has soccer practice? Read what experts have to say about these beverages and check out our healthy and nutritious alternatives to sports drinks.
Recently, a myriad of sports drinks have made an appearance on supermarket shelves. They are colourfully packaged with their many ‘benefits’ grabbing our attention – and that of our children.
With such attractive marketing is it likely that many children have tried these drinks and even drink them routinely. So are these sports drinks bad for kids? Well, that’s for the experts to decide if sports drinks are safe for kids. Thing is, when it comes to what kids consume, it may be best to always take a closer look.
Sports drinks are said to contain carbs, minerals, electrolytes, flavouring and calories. They replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during prolonged and strenuous exercise. Sports drinks also have a very high sugar content, so it’s no surprise that kids prefer these drinks to plain old water.
For example, 100ml of a popular sports drink would have 6.8 grams of sugar whereas 100g of banana, a well-known natural energy booster, has 12g of sugar; almost double of the sports drink.
But the banana contains so much more nutrients besides sugar — it packs a punch with a host of vitamins as well as fibre, thus making it a more valuable source of calories than a sports drink.
In a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP, published in the June 2011 issue of Pediatrics, Marcie Beth Schneider, MD, a paediatrician at Greenwich Adolescent Medicine in Greenwich said most sports drinks “have calories and sugar which can lead to weight gain and dental erosion.” She adds, “Such drinks have a limited use for specific kids and teen athletes involved in prolonged vigorous sports or other activities.”
In other words, average children involved in regular exercise do not need sports drinks.
Related to this, Kelly Sinclair, RD, clinical dietician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. says that parents shouldn’t confuse exercise duration and intensity. For example, your child’s soccer practice may run for two hours, but it doesn’t mean that he is exercising vigorously for that long.
The AAP also advises parents not to confuse sports drinks with energy drinks. Energy drinks are strictly not for children or adolescents as they can contain more than 500 milligrams of caffeine — equal to about 14 cans of soda. They may also contain other ingredients that aren’t healthy for a child’s growing body.
Instead of sports drinks then, let’s look elsewhere for energy boosters — Mother Nature already has quite a few options that are safe and nutritious for your child.
Try these great ideas for boosting your child’s energy naturally:
1. Go bananas! – Make an energy-boosting smoothie with potassium-packed bananas and orange juice. Potassium helps fight against fatigue and enables the body’s enzymes to moderate energy production.
2. Flaxseed oil – Make the above smoothie with a teaspoon of flaxseed oil. This wonder ingredient helps slow down the release of fruit sugar to the bloodstream so that you get a sustained, even supply of energy.
3. Leafy greens – Dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and watercress are loaded with vitamins A, C, E and K, and are low in calories and high in fibre. They’re are also packed with magnesium, potassium, folate and calcium.
4. Blueberries – This tiny berry packs a high powered-vitamin C punch! They are also high in disease-fighting antioxidants. Add a handful to any smoothie or try freezing them for an interesting treat.
5. Almonds – Just a handful of these delicious nuts can give your little one a much needed energy boost. They are high in protein, magnesium and fibre, and are also a very good source of monounsaturated fats – the good kind of fat. Make a delicious almond milkshake by blending some blanched almonds with iced vanilla milk.
6. Beans and Tofu – These are a high-protein alternative to red meats that are high in fat and cholesterol. Beans also have a low glycemic index, which helps stabilize the energy they provide.
7. Broccoli – A true super-food, broccoli contains a high dose of vitamin C, fibre, iron, beta-carotene and antioxidants. It also contains chromium, which helps regulate blood sugar, keeping energy levels stable. Make sure you don’t overcook broccoli so as not to lose its nutritional value.
8. Water – The best thirst quencher ever! Most kids don’t get enough water and have energy slumps as a result. Make sure your little one drinks water before, during and after any sports activity.
(Sources: www.webmd.com, www.ada.org)
Do you know of other natural energy boosters? Please do leave a comment and share them with us.