How to Break Your Child's Soda Habit
OK, we know by this point that soda is bad for us, but the stuff is downright addictive — which makes some of us scared to pry the sugary liquid from the tiny fingers of our children. For some kids, the habit runs so deep, a huge tantrum is sure to result after they're told they can't have a soda — right?
Well, yes, you're probably going to get some push-back from removing sodas from the fridge, but there are methods to help your family kick the habit without all the drama. And considering sodas offer no nutritional value whatsoever, they're bad for teeth and growing bones, and studies have shown that its consumption is linked with Type 2 diabetes and obesity, a tiny bit of effort is worth it.
We're not going to lie and say it will be easy or quick, but here are a few ways to help break your child’s soda addiction.
It's time for a talk about healthy choices, mama. All your kids probably know is that soda tastes good, which is why it's their favorite drink to reach for. While that may be true, it's important to let them know that's it's not the healthiest beverage choice, and there are lots of alternatives out there — that they'll find just as tasty.
Make it a family affair
No soda for kids doesn’t mean a free pass for Mom and Dad. You can control what comes in the home; make cutting a soda habit a family affair. The easiest way to break a habit is to have everyone on board. Kids will follow by example. If they see their parents opting for healthy drinks, they will be sure to follow. Plus, not having soda in the house at all makes it less tempting. Also, when you are eating out, don't order it. Your kids will see you making healthy choices, and they will too.
Like any addiction, cold turkey may not work for everyone, especially kids. If they are used to the caffeine and sugar boost from their favorite soft drink, then stopping it all at once can lead to crankiness and caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Wean them slowly. Start by limiting when they can have soda. Let them have it only with certain meals. Reducing soda intake slowly will help you get the sugar and caffeine withdrawal under control. Just like when you have to break your baby’s Binky or thumb-sucking habit, patience and consistency work best.
When you start to wean, try substituting with natural sodas. Natural sodas have fewer artificial ingredients. They don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup and generally contain less sugar than the big brands do. They’re an overall healthier choice, especially if you’re drinking them only occasionally. Diet sodas, however, are not a healthier option. Studies have shown that drinking diet soda actually leads to weight gain. Better yet, try introducing your kids to fruit-infused water. Add citrus slices, berries, watermelon or fresh mint to a pitcher of water, and keep it in the refrigerator. Encourage your kids to drink a glass of the fruit-infused water first, before they have a soda. Keep in mind, though, that with fruit you're still at risk for acid erosion, and consider drinking through a straw to help protect your teeth. Balance out that healthier choice by using a toothpaste that protects their enamel.
Once you see that your kids are putting forth a good effort to reduce their soda consumption, remember to praise them. Kids like to know when they are doing a good job. Offer to take them someplace special, or give them one-on-one time doing something they like. A little acknowledgment for a job well done goes a long way.
Originally published September 2016. Updated April 2017.