Sippy Cup Full of Soda -- How Bad?

Filed under: Opinions, Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers

"Is it just me or is every child in a stroller at this mall drinking biggie-sized soft drinks? I mean, it's practically in their sippy cups." Looking around the mall ... my friend seems to be right about this. Hmm... How bad is soda for kids?

To find out, I called Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, who is a board-certified pediatrician and an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics as an official national media spokesperson (she goes by "Dr. Gwenn").

"The two issues are caffeine and sugar," Dr. Gwenn begins. "Kids who drink any sort of sugary drinks have been linked with childhood obesity because you're adding a lot of calories to a child's day." What about diet soda? Still bad, says Dr. Gwenn, "If it's diet soda, they're drinking that instead of water or milk." She lists other soda-related risks...
Cavities. "The ingredients in soda, the sugar and the sugar substitutes, wear away your tooth enamel which promotes cavities."

Poor nutrition. "Children won't be hungry because the carbonation fills them up and if you have a big glass of soda, you're consuming a lot of calories so they feel full but they haven't eaten something healthful."

. "They get hooked on the taste and begin to refuse other drinks, such as water, so you're setting yourself up for a battle every time they get thirsty. Also, caffeine is addictive and a stimulant. The kids will start to crave it and it can cause sleep issues or behavioral issues."

So is there a point at which most kids start drinking soda?

"I don't recommend they have even a sip of soda until middle school," says Dr. Gwenn. "Once kids get to be in middle school or high school you've got to loosen the reins a little bit. If they're at a party or a special event, they're starting to make their own decisions. An occasional diet soda, caffeine-free would be okay, but if they're downing liters of it that's a bigger issue. But before middle school, before 12 or 13, there's no reason for kids to have soda."

What about natural sodas?

"So-called natural-sodas are still soda. They can have a huge amount of calories and sugar and can erode your teeth--you have to read the label and compare them so you know what you're getting."

So what's left for a fizz-seeking child to drink?

"Some fizzy waters are fine, seltzer is fine, if you're flavoring your own seltzer with a few drops of lemonade that's probably fine."

Bottom line?

"You want to read the labels and be sure you're not getting a product with a ton of sugar or one that has caffeine."

If you've ever had a less-than-perfect parenting moment that has left you wondering, "How bad?" Send it to Sabrina at She'll try to answer as many as she can.

Sabrina Weill is the founder of the pink and princess-y gift site:
PrincessLovesPink. Many of the Mommy Advisors in this column are the writer's personal or professional friends.

Related: Cut Down on Caffeine, More How Bad?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.