Here’s a question for you dads and moms out there: What kinds of stuff do you let your kids drink? I’m not talking alcohol or anything scandalous. Just regular drinks. Soft drinks. Sports drinks. That kind of stuff.

My wife and I are finding that we’re way more strict than most parents on what our kids drink. I grew up on a can of Dr. Pepper a day (my mom’s limit) but have gradually weaned myself from that habit. Today, I rarely drink soft drinks at all, nor does my wife. We drink lots of water. And milk. Iced tea (unsweetened) in the summer. Hot tea in the winter. Coffee in the mornings. That’s it.

Our kids are pretty much the same, other than the coffee and tea. Our daughter would consume milk for every meal if it were always available, but she’s OK with water when it’s not. Our son wants orange juice for breakfast and water for the rest of his meals, unless he can talk us into lemonade as an occasional treat.

So in our quest to help our kids develop healthy drinking habits — and it’s been a deliberate quest, since neither of us wants our children hooked on sugary drinks — we’ve been fairly successful. Our daughter has been the easiest. She has no sweet tooth whatsoever and no interest at all in soft drinks or sport drinks like Gatorade or Powerade.
Our son, on the other hand? Much more difficult. He’s not too much of a fan of soft drinks — he’s tried them, but hasn’t had them enough to ever crave one — but would drink sport drinks all the time if we let him. ALL the time. We keep a few sports drinks in the fridge for me to use after exercising. He loves these, but we only let him drink one when it’s hot and he’s been outside getting sweaty. He knows that these are not just regular drinks, but special replenishing drinks.

This is a tough battle, though, because he has friends who drink Gatorade constantly, like water — as if it’s a healthy alternative to soft drinks. Honestly, I’ve never understood this. The replenishing carbs in Gatorade come directly from sugar. A 20-oz bottle of regular Gatorade has nearly 9 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Nine! It’s sugar-water that comes in neon colors. If our kids asked for sugar water all the time, there’s no way I’d let them drink it. But, ooh, Gatorade! (Interestingly, this blog post by Jonah Lehrer describes a study that concluded that ingesting Gatorade during athletic pursuits provides no real replenishing of electrolytes or anything…but rinsing your mouth with it and spitting it out actually does help. Because of the sugar, and what that jolt of sweetness does to the brain.)

Anyway, let’s end that quick rant and get to the questions:

1. Do you police the kinds of things your children drink?

2. If so what are your rules? And what age will those rules change?

Would love to hear from you on this.

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