What better way to prevent children from habitually consuming sugary beverages than to start in our schools, right? Today’s highly influenced kids don’t need more temptation right at their fingertips, after all the consumer advertising that soda manufacturers pour into their media campaigns. The best solution seems to be outlawing the soda machines at school. That should fix the problem and reduce childhood obesity.
Not so fast! Yes, eliminating easy-access to Coca-Cola and Pepsi products will encourage different beverage choices, but that doesn’t guarantee that those choices are necessarily better. Many schools who have made strides to ban soda machines think they’ve won a battle against sugar, but the war has just begun. Other vending machine favorites like juices and sports drinks boast an equally high calorie and sugar content as their caffeinated, carbonated soda counterparts.
A recent study showed that states which banned only soda in their schools, appeared to show almost no improvement on Middle School and Elementary School consumption of sugary drinks. Between 26-29% of students in these schools consumed suger-enhanced drinks. However, the states which instituted a policy banning all artificially sweetened beverages altogether showed noticeable improvement. “The numbers were lower, though, in states that banned all sugar-sweetened drinks, with 14.9 percentage points fewer students reporting access at school and 7.3 percentage points fewer reporting purchase over the prior week compared with those in states with no policy.”
Without banning all sugar beverages completely, these state bans on soda only are ineffective. But I think it will take a lot more than some school bans to really demonstrate healthy consumption.
The study drew the same conclusion. “These results add to the growing body of evidence that school-based policy interventions must be comprehensive if they are to be effective, the researchers concluded… Simply replacing soda with sports drinks or other sugary drinks wouldn’t be expected to have much impact on obesity, because even 100% fruit juice has as many calories as other sugar-sweetened beverages, they noted.”
What needs to happen for children to kick the sugar addiction is this: parents have to help kids develop a preference for water and other helpful drinks like teas (unsweetened or naturally sweetened). When thirst develops there needs to be available viable alternatives to juices, sports drinks and sodas with high sugar content. Most important is parents leading by example in the beverages they consume. Otherwise, these kids will simply follow suit, and possibly end up fighting a lifelong battle against their sugar addiction, obesity, and in some cases diabetes.
For those who have there health and wellness in balance, there is little desire for constant sugary beverages. It’s the power of the addiction to sweet drinks that makes the soda ban in schools so ineffective. Addicts will always find a source to feed their addiction – especially children, who are easily adaptable to changes in their environment. The best prevention is to not develop an addiction in the first place so that when child sees soda they don’t always go for it.