Childhood obesity may have as much to do with what kids drink as it does with what they eat, according to a report by the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center's Nutrition Information Center.
By 1994, the average teenager consumed 64.5 gallons of soft drinks a year, three times the amount consumed in 1978. For children 6 to 11, soft drink consumption more than doubled and consumption of fruit drinks that are not 100% juice tripled.
Inadequate liquid nutrition has also been attributed to bone fractures due to deficient calcium intake as well as tooth decay and tooth tissue loss due to excess sugar. Dehydration is another serious health risk.
"We believe it is high time to help children and adolescents break the high-calorie fruit drink and soft drink habit," the report said. The following suggestions are offered:
* Dilute high-calorie fruit juice by mixing it with sparkling mineral water.
* Offer alternatives such as water and water-abundant fruits (watermelon, grapes, cantaloupe).
* Make drinking convenient by placing children's cups and drinking glasses near the home water cooler.
* Substitute 100% juice for sugared drinks.
* Purchase flavored water in single-serve bottles.
For a free copy of the report, write to Liquid Intake and Childhood Obesity, New York-Cornell Nutrition Information Center, 515 E. 71 St., New York, NY 10021 or call (212) 746-1617.