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Take a Hard Line Against Soft Drinks

Children often switch from drinking milk to drinking soda when they become preteens or teens. These kids tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables, and get less calcium, protein, and vitamins A and D, because they are drinking less milk. They also take in more calories. Because one in seven U.S. youths weighs too much, health professionals are sounding the alarm.

Soft drinks can't take all the blame for the weight crisis. But kids can reduce their calorie intake by drinking less soda or drinking only diet soda.

Although your child's diet won't be ruined if he drinks soda in modest amounts, it can be hard to stick to that goal. Children often gulp down a 20-ounce bottle, equal to 2-1/2 servings.

Experts say it may be easier to cut out soft drinks altogether than to persuade your kids to drink less of them.

Other concerns:

  • Soft drinks don't satisfy the appetite, so preteens and teens tend to eat a normal amount of food in addition to the calories they take in through soda.

  • Many soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which may lead to a loss of calcium. (This is a double whammy, because preteens and teens who drink soda aren't getting the calcium they need from milk.)

  • Nondiet soft drinks contain high-fructose corn syrup. This sweetener may be associated with an increase in metabolic syndrome -- a precursor to diabetes -- in teens.

Nutritious substitutes are close at hand: Start with milk.