A spoonful of sugar?

by Tara Kimura, CBCNews.ca

In almost any amusement park, playground, or shopping mall across Canada at this very moment, there are surely children throwing five-alarm tantrums. The meltdowns always exhibit some of the same properties — the feet are stamped in a drum-like roll, the bottom lip protrudes in a pout and the whining wails of discontent echo loudly.

Dietitian Mary Bamford, speaking on behalf of Coca-Cola, suggests maintaining proper hydration may go a long way in preventing these episodes. And she notes, a little sugar isn't necessarily a bad thing. If kids become even a little dehydrated, they'll become impatient, apathetic and grumpy, she said, noting water is always the first drink of choice, followed by milk.

"Kids are more vulnerable to dehydration because their kidneys are not mature, their sweat glands are not mature, they don't have as much cardiac output, they don't anticipate heat," said Bamford.

She also cautioned that entirely ruling out sugary drinks may lead to overindulgence later on.

"If parents don't expose kids to things in our culture, they're going to go crazy in their teens and so really teaching them reasonable choices is a good way to go so getting 10 per cent of your calories from added sugars is quite reasonable," she said.

Admittedly, Bamford is speaking on behalf of Coca-Cola, but I considered her advice for a while, thinking back to those kids in university who had the sudden, unfettered access to sugar and television thrust upon them. They abandoned tutorials and lectures and parked themselves in the dorm's TV lounge with a mixing bowl, a really big spoon, a box of Lucky Charms and a full day's plans to cram in as many soap operas as possible.

For parents, it must be a tough map to navigate, especially as obesity levels continue to climb. Do you subscribe to the notion that cutting off all sugar will inevitably lead to overindulgence later on? Or do you believe that kids won't miss what they never had? How do you control the sugar in your child's diet? How do you ensure your kids stay hydrated?

And, as for general hydration guidelines, the dietary reference intake for kids is as follows:

  • Children between the ages of four and eight should drink a 1.2 litres daily, or about five cups measuring eight ounces.
  • Boys between the ages of 9 and 13 should drink about 1.8 L, or seven to eight cups daily.
  • Girls between 9 and 13 should consume 1.6 L, or 6-7 cups daily.
  • Boys between the ages of 14 and 18 should drink 2.6 L, or 11-12 cups daily.
  • Girls between the ages of 14 and 18 should drink 1.8 L, or seven to eight cups daily.