I am the mom of two girls – and every day is an adventure. Like any parent or caregiver, I strive to do what’s best for my kids. This includes helping them choose healthy food and drinks as much as we can.
I do my best - as all of us strive to do for ourselves and for our families. Some days go better than others. And let’s be honest, some weeks go better than others.
I’ve always known soda and sugar aren’t great for you, but candidly, I have a sweet tooth and come from a family who loves our desserts. We have diabetes in our family, so we watch out for our overall diet and think about balance as much as we can - but that doesn’t keep us from desserts and other treats that we enjoy.
When I became a mom I had to think about this more – what was I drinking and eating – what did we keep in the house? When it came to drinks, we focused on milk and water and tried to limit juice. But again, we do our best. It’s become harder as our kids have gotten older and now can ask for what they want.
I generally knew we didn’t want a lot of sugar in our kids' diets and knew kids needed milk and water more than any other drink. However, it wasn’t until I came to Voices for Healthy Kids and the American Heart Association that I really learned about the impact and influence sugar has on our lives, culture and long-term health.
I always thought about the health of our teeth, our family risk of diabetes and hydration – I didn’t think about the potential future risk of heart disease for my kids…or me. I didn’t realize how much I had to UNLEARN as a child of the 1980s now thinking about what I was providing my own kids.
I also didn’t think about the history of sugar in this country and what that means for our nation today. I didn’t know the full impact that big soda companies have on us as parents and kids. Yes, I knew there was marketing. These are huge companies, so that itself isn’t surprising. But did I ever really think about the impact of that marketing on me? On my family? I did not know how Big Soda’s marketing targeted Black and Hispanic youth specifically and how that is linked to systemic racism.
Voices for Healthy Kids recently completed some message research on sugary drinks and I often come back to a nugget of information from the discussion groups. In a group of parents, there was some surprise about the amount of sugar in lemonade. I laughed and nodded as I heard that because (in my head) I imagined a bunch of moms just as shocked as I was when I took a look at the label and learned more about sugary drinks.
I want to be clear. This is not to shame or “mom guilt” anyone about what’s in their fridge or what you give your kids. There is juice in our refrigerator. All we can do is our best. If this year has taught us anything, it is that we are all doing our best.
We all strive to find balance and do what’s best for ourselves and our families. We make choices on the information we have and what products are available (and sometimes even on our own energy – who among hasn’t been so tired that we’ve given in to our kid’s demands for candy at the grocery store?!). All I can do is continue to learn and seek out information to help me make my decisions. Voices for Healthy Kids and the AHA are here to share information as we continue to get educated on the health impacts of sugary drinks and consider how the beverage industry influences what’s available in our communities and targeted at our kids – whether on tv, social media, or other routes.