When I was a child my mother didn’t really allow us to drink soda because it was not good for us. Today researchers have linked childhood obesity at least in part to soda and sugary drinks as a mainstay in children’s diets.
In a effort to try to combat obesity, an initiative is currently underway to limit the availability of sugary drinks in schools. I think this is an interesting first step to change children’s palates.
The guidelines for elementary and middle schools include the following: vending machines have water, 100% juice and low fat milk available. In high schools the young adults can choose from diet beverages, calorie-capped sports drinks, flavored waters and teas. This initiative, a collaboration of the American Beverage Association, the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, has been very successful. According to the statistics from 2004 this initiative has been able to reduce the number of full sugar soft drinks by 95 percent in the last four years.
While it might not seem like a big deal to stop children from drinking so much sugar, it really makes a difference in their energy levels. When children drink sugar it cause their blood sugar levels to rise quickly and the body’s response is release large amounts of insulin, a hormone that is used to regulate blood sugar. This large amount of insulin does its job and then causes children’s blood sugar levels to drop fast. The low blood sugar levels cause lack of attention, focus and energy, sleepiness, and irritability. All of these symptoms cause stress in the body, thus causing children to process their nutrients faster, leading to increased hunger. These are not good symptoms to have in the middle of a school day.
The alternative of having less sugary drinks is a good start to changing habits; but in addition to less sugary drinks, we need to have a healthy whole foods offered in the cafeteria as well. Lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains help to maintain normal peaks and valleys in the blood sugar levels in children’s body and replenish micro nutrients and minerals from the stressed state.