I’m a soccer mom.  Or at least I was.  And boy, is soccer fun. But it also is an activity that can wreak havoc on your kids’ eating habits.  Those sports drinks we give our kids? They teach all the wrong things.

Some sports drinks have less sugar than soda (and even less sugar than juice), but drinking them produces bad habits.  If your kids consume sports drinks regularly they will also:

  • Feel they need a flavor kick from beverages.
  • Develop a taste for sugary, salty flavors, thereby raising their sugar and salt taste thresholds.  This influences what other foods kids accept.
  • Believe that people who participate in sports require special nutrients not found in nature (but found in manufactured products).

Kids don’t need sports drinks.

When my daughter was 6 she joined an after-school, recreational soccer team.  She loved running up and down the field, trying to get a kick in whenever she could.

My daughter also enjoyed standing around, yelling support to her teammates.  Since only 2 or 3 players really played, that’s how she and most of her teammates spent the bulk of their time.  But it didn’t matter. Soccer was a ton of fun.

Halftime was a blast too.  The coach would rev everyone up, and the kids would suck down their fill of oranges and Gatorade.

Oranges I get – the kids were hungry — but Gatorade?  I know rehydration is important, but honestly, most of the kids hadn’t even broken a sweat! Even if they had, from a nutrition perspective, sports drinks are unnecessary. 

Sports drinks are sweet, salty drinks with a little potassium.  For instance, one 8-ounce serving of Gatorade has

  • 110mg of sodium
  • 30mg of potassium
  • 14g of sugar

(The Lite version has all the sodium and potassium but only 5g of sugar.)

Contrary to the marketing hype, only elite athletes need to worry about electrolytes.

Electrolytes are minerals in your blood.  You lose some when you sweat.  That’s the hook sports drinks producers use to reel you in: They say it is important to replace those lost electrolytes.

According to noted nutritionist Marion Nestle, however, unless you are vigorously exercising for an hour or more, you won’t even notice a loss of electrolytes.  Everyone has plenty.

Even if you are training for a marathon, sports drinks don’t do a lot more for you than plain old food and water.

  • One medium banana has around 400mg of potassium.
  • A carrot has around 25mg of sodium.

Why train your kids to need a salt-supplemented, sugary drink when they workout?  

Instead, teach them to consume real food and water.  It’ll pay off, not just on the soccer field, but in the dining room too.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Source: http://www.gatorade.com/default.aspx#product?s=gatorade-g, accessed March 2, 20101; Nestle, M., 2006. What to Eat. New York: North Point Press. Pp. 421-422; Bricklin, Mark. 1993. Nutrition Advisor: The Ultimate Guide to the Health-Boosting and Health-Harming Factors in Your Diet. Rodale Press.