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Told to Offer Water and Milk, Elementary Schools Sell Soda

By Heather Turgeon |

Childhood obesity soft drinks and fruit juice in school

High-calorie drinks widely available to little school kids

Researchers reported today on a survey that found high-calorie drinks are making an even bigger hit with little kids. Sugary sodas, sugar-sweetened fruit juice, higher-fat milk and other calorie-packed drinks are even more widely available to elementary kids at school than they used to be.

In 61 percent of U.S. elementary schools surveyed, little students could buy sweetened drinks or sodas at vending machines or school stores on campus. This despite the Institute of Medicine recommending that elementary school kids only be offered water, a small amount of 100% juice, or lowfat milk.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, looked at public and private schools during school years from 2006 to 2009. The percentage of schools offering big calorie drinks was up from 49% in 2006.

One small piece of good news here…

The percentage of public schools offering only beverages that adhere to the Institute of Medicine guidelines is up from 10% to 16%. Private schools fared worse.

“I think at this point there still is a discrepancy between what we are actually recommending for children and what they are consuming,” Dr. Alice Lichtenstein, a heart and nutrition specialist at Tufts University, told Reuters.

Sounds like it. My son, who is only two, would happily sip soda or juice all day long if he were allowed. That’s just the way our taste proclivities are built — we gravitate towards high calorie foods and drinks because it signals our brain that nutrition is in store. In this case, it’s a trick — only empty calories that tax the body’s insulin and set up our little ones for later obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Image: flickr/dcJohn

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About Heather Turgeon


Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Told to Offer Water and Milk, Elementary Schools Sell Soda

  1. Nancy Rice says:

    The availability of high-calorie beverages in schools is one of the reasons why school nutrition professionals have been calling on Congress to pass S 3307, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. If we truly are serious about decreasing obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles for our children, Congress must enact nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. It is only logical that children should receive the same message about healthy food choices offered in all areas of the school, whether in the cafeteria, the gymnasium, or in vending machines. Check out for information on how schools are working to provide students with more nutritious options.

    School Nutrition Association President Nancy Rice, M.Ed., RD, LD, SNS

  2. Clay Boggess says:

    Schools need to continue to work to eliminate competing vending machines as long as the students are also taught the importance of consuming healthy beverages and why other drinks may not be a good choice. This process needs to start in the home at an early age. Parents are often guilty of giving their children what they want in order to ‘pacify the moment’ instead of what they really need. Developing good exercise habits is also vitally important.

    Clay Boggess

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