High sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intake during childhood is a major risk factor for obesity and other adverse health outcomes. SSB include drinks with added sugar such as soda, fruit and sports drinks, flavored teas, and milk. SSB are high-calorie, low-nutrient, and major sources of added sugar. Nearly half (47%) of U.S. children aged 2-5 consume at least 1 SSB daily, with considerable variation by demographics.
To explore SSB-related beliefs and practices among a sample of low-income, urban parents of young children.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Fifteen English language interviews were conducted with parents of children aged 2-5 at a family health clinic in Peekskill, New York. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for major themes using standard qualitative methods.
Several themes emerged: few parents expressed clear knowledge of or had discussed SSB with their child's health care provider; participants who could not explain the difference between 100% juice and fruit drinks tended to serve SSB more frequently and in higher quantities; nearly all participants believed that products labeled “natural” or “all natural” were healthful; most parents named low cost and children's preferences/nagging as reasons they serve SSB; and WIC participants believed juice was healthful because it can be purchased with vouchers.
Parents who serve SSB may lack consistent, reliable information from physicians and health authorities. They may be misled by labels and influenced by cost and pressure from their children.
Lowering SSB consumption has the potential to reduce calorie intake, improve diet quality, and reduce obesity risk in young children. Consistently employing recommended SSB screening protocols during well-child visits is one practical preventive approach. Changes to product labeling, improving public education about and taxing SSB may also help reduce intake.