Can fizzy drinks ever be ethical & other kids drinks dilemmas

What to offer my children to drink has always been a source of anxiety for me. And I’m not even talking alcohol here; that’s a subject for another day.

I remember when my first son was tiny. I was determined to do everything right and be the best mum in the world. I used to give him fennel juice to drink because that was what the Health Visitor told me to do. My baby boy would spit it out and scream the house down. He so often screamed the house down over so many different things that I soon gave up on being the best mum in the world. (I can still remember my reply when the Doctor asked if I was depressed – “Anyone would be depressed if they lived with this baby!”). I switched to heavily diluted sugar free squash and haven’t looked back since.

Actually, that’s not true. When my youngest daughter had her first trip to the dentist, I was told she must be drinking too much juice and that was why her teeth were eroding into sharp points (and I thought she was just related to a terrier). We tried hard to break her addiction for a while. She made herself ill by not drinking enough when water was all that was on offer. We relented a little and hoped for the best for her adult teeth.

Anyway, the reason for all these confessions of a rubbish mum is to show the dilemma that I have lived with for many long years. Just what is it OK to offer your kids to drink? How hard is it to just offer water when there are so many more tasty and colourful options out there to choose from? I have had friends who have thought they were doing the right thing by only giving their children pure fruit juice only for their kids’ teeth to be rotted away by the high acid content. Some people believe diet drinks are full of too many chemicals; others believe that the chemicals are preferable to the high sugar load of normal fizzy drinks. Some avoid caffeine; others avoid aspartame. What a minefield!

As for water, the options there are endless too. Is tap water really filled with unwanted unknown chemicals? Is bottled water an extravagance both financially and environmentally? Is flavoured water any good for you at all? What about fizzy water? What about filtered?

We have recently acquired a terracotta water cooler and filter. The water is filtered and purified through a ceramic filter. The terracotta container keeps the water 10 to 15 degrees lower than the external temperature. There is no plumbing or electrical supply required. The only problem is that the water has an acquired taste, which most of the family have yet to acquire. The little tap is a novelty that entices the younger members of the family to help themselves, fortunately with as yet no disastrous consequences (one day, the tap will be left on, I’m sure of it). On top of that, it looks cool and draws the attention of visitors to the house – great publicity for a great product. So water is being introduced as the new wonder drink to my very sceptical family. (it looks like nothing, tastes like nothing – how can the effect be anything other than nothing?)

Other drinks are good on occasions. Ubuntu cola uses fair trade sugar from Malawi, a country with a special place in our hearts. Fruit Passion goes down well (too well). Other organic squashes and fruit juices have been tried with varying responses.

Maybe I should just be brutal (cruel to be kind) and offer nothing but water for a few weeks, until the habit has been broken. Unfortunately, I am just seen as the mum who wants to spoil everyone’s fun. Cool water only becomes cool when the teacher keeps suggesting it to the class. Fizzy drinks are only seen for what they are when the dentist armed with drill tells my son that they are causing the holes in his teeth. Water only becomes the drink of choice when my husband and I become good role models.

Please share your suggestions with me as to how to encourage healthy drinking in my family. My children might listen to you.

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  • John Hinton

    Selecting the ‘right’ drink can be a bit of a challenge. I was invited to a barbeque a week or so ago, and being a thoughful sort of guest I asked if I could bring anything along. ‘Soft drinks for the kids’ was the request. So I opted for the lemonade and ginger beer from Belvoir they went down a treat, great taste and bottled in glass not plastic – I’d highly recommend them.

  • Jane

    Interesting post Helen, have you tried the whole earth cans? there’s a pretty decent choice for us organic junkies:)

  • If you can get them used to the somewhat ‘acquired’ taste of some of the James White organic juices they have some unique flavours as well as great health benefits! They’re vegan-friendly too!

  • Fred Ualliac de Civ du bout du bois tout vert

    That would not be only cruel, but counter-productive

  • Hi – just found this website when I was looking for something else (wind up walkie talkies since you ask). Great website BTW.
    OK, giving kids fizzy drinks. My 19yr old middle son who has Aspergers refuses pointblank to drink anything other than water or milk (he’ll sip tea if pushed). Result? He has fantastic teeth despite eating a lot of sweets and is ridiculously healthy despite refusing to touch any green food other than broccoli or peas. I think it’s well worth getting your kids off fizzy drinks – especially those with (spit! yuck!) aspartame in them. I simply don’t buy them. When asked to, I forget. I buy fizzy water which can be mixed with juice and I make real lemonade sometimes. Youngest son is allowed coca cola only at weekends because it used to make him hyper. It’s easier for me because I don’t like fizzy drinks myself (apart from cider, of course) and I’m a single mum. Don’t say no. Just “forget” persistently. They give up eventually if the stuff isn’t in the fridge and it isn’t a battle.

  • Helen

    We’ve been making our own drinks, I’ve made elderflower cordial this year using fairtrade sugar, and last year I made my own ribena substitute which went down very well, also raspberry syrup and blackberry syrup. All cheaper to have than commercial stuff, no additives other than sugar to taste. Also started a ginger beer plant with the kids, it has been a great success and ginger beer plantlets are making the rounds in our neighbourhood. All the drinks have only as little sugar [or sweetener if you wish] as your family will accept, and the kids enjoy making them, diluting them with fizzy water [or fizzy wine for the adults] is also good.

  • I have two boys and we do a lot of outdoor activities. We’ve decided to stop using plastic bottles altogether, which is a bit tough, especially when you forget your aluminum sports bottle. We found this product called Glacia ICEBOX water. It’s water in a box! It’s made from totally recycled material and is itself completely recyclable! The water comes from the mineral rich Rustad Spring in Norway. But the best thing is my boys LOVE it! They think the box is interesting and fun and they say the water tastes “sweet”. I can leave it in the car and it doesn’t get that nasty plastic taste they used to complain about. Plus, it holds up well in an ice chest and stacks great. P.

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