Breaking the Soda Habit

Fun, flavorful alternatives your kids will love!

by christine taylor

American children consume about 25 gallons of soda (or 2 cans daily) each year, and you won’t find a doctor or dentist who’s happy about that. A 12-ounce can of soda contains over 9 teaspoons of sugar, and many restaurant servings are even larger. Imagine pouring those teaspoons of sugar into your child’s mouth (or even into your morning coffee - try it sometime). Mix in corrosive additives and artificial flavorings, and it’s clear that soda is not the best way to keep our kids hydrated.

However, making the transition to a soda-free life isn’t always easy, especially when you offer only bland beverages to replace fizzy, sweet, colorful sodas. Here are some ideas and alternatives designed to help your family break the daily soda habit.


Fruit Fizzies (or Fruit Sodas if your kids are too cool for cute names) are a combination of 1/3 pure juice and 2/3 plain carbonated water (such as seltzer or sparkling water). Orange and pineapple juices are a sweet, easy sell. Pomegranate, blueberry and black cherry juices are delicious antioxidant powerhouses that pack a punch, so you may want to cut down the ratio to 1/5 juice to 4/5 seltzer in those cases. Let your kids explore produce, frozen fruits and 100% juices and nectars at the grocery store, and let them come up with their own combinations. You can purchase seltzer or sparkling water, or buy a small seltzer maker (Google “seltzer maker” or “soda siphon” to find one online) to reduce waste and, ultimately, save money.

Fruit-flavored teabags are an almost instant way to flavor water − no need to hot brew! Buy a variety pack (like Celestial Seasonings’ Fruit Tea Sampler) and let your kids pop their choice of teabag into cold water. Within minutes, the flavor will intensify, and kids love to watch the water change color. Keep teabags, age-appropriate glasses and water within easy reach so that your kids can serve themselves.

Apple/cucumber water is an ultra-refreshing change of pace, especially in the dry summer months. Simply add sliced apples and cucumbers to a pitcher of water, and chill for at least 30 minutes. Try tossing in fresh mint from the garden, too.

Natural sodas (such as Hansen’s, available at Good Earth Market), although free from artificial additives or caffeine, still contain quite a lot of cane sugar and should be consumed only in moderation.


Just because soda comes with the meal doesn’t mean your kids have to drink it! Alternatives are always available. At fast food restaurants, you can opt for a bottle of water or low-fat milk. Even chocolate milk is a significantly better choice than soda

because (although high in sugar) it provides valuable calcium, vitamin D and protein. In full-service restaurants, get a fruit fizzy for your kids (just ask for half orange juice, half seltzer).


Don’t drink soda around your kids. When they see you drinking water, tea, seltzer and juices, it will have a profound (although perhaps not overnight) effect on their choices.

Hold a family contest to come up with the most delicious and creative soda alternatives.

If cutting out standard soda altogether isn’t appealing, make it a special treat rather than a daily drink. For example, allow soda only at the movies, or let the kids order a Shirley Temple or Roy Rogers (remember those?) when dining in a special restaurant.

For older children, try an allotment of sodas (say, 2 per week) to be enjoyed whenever they choose.

Eliminating soda from your children’s daily diet is one of the very best things you can do for their health, both now and in the future. It may seem impossible to give up, and the kids may put up a fight at first…but enter into this healthy transition with a positive attitude, and introduce your family to a fun, creative world of new drinks! SFM

Christine Taylor is the mother of 2 young children (Sophia, 4; and Sean, 18 months).  She recently launched 21 Months Magazine, an online resource for new parents and mothers-to-be (www.21months.com).

You and your kids may love the taste and the temporary energy boost…but, here are some things you should know before quenching your family’s thirst.

High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Despite a prominent ad campaign implying otherwise, several studies have pointed to specific disadvantages of HFCS, found in virtually all soda. For example, fructose is processed by the liver (unlike other sweeteners, which are utilized by the entire body), and consuming it in excess can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, even in children.

Phosphoric acid.

This corrosive is added to nearly every soft drink on the market to sharpen flavor. It both leeches calcium from the body and prevents the body from absorbing new calcium. This is especially damaging to our children’s bones and teeth, and (as osteoporosis affects 55% of Americans over the age of 50), Mom and Dad should steer clear, too. Want another reason to avoid it? Phosphoric acid is the reason sodas are an effective way to clean car battery terminals and clear clogged drains.

A Quick Party Idea

Set up a Fruit Fizzy station at your next kids’ party! Let the guests choose from colorful juices to create their own delicious, healthful party drinks … because the cake and ice cream will have them hyper enough. For maximum flavor, use juice concentrates (make sure they’re no-sugar-added varieties) and seltzer. Lay out sliced oranges, strawberries and pineapple pieces for garnish, pop in a crazy straw, and your young guests will never miss the Coke!

More Soda Facts...

Soft drink consumption rates

among children have doubled

in the last decade.


Soft drinks are currently the

leading source of added

sugars in the daily diet of

young Americans. The

average teenager gets 15 to

20 teaspoons a day of added

sugar from soft drinks alone.


Adolescents (aged 12-17) get

11 percent of their calories

from soft drinks


Scientists have suggested that caffeine – which is added to

enhance the flavor of soft drinks -

induces nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, and headaches, factors that can adversely

influence a child’s readiness to learn.

source: www.greenearthinstitute.org