Many parents drink diet soda and wonder if their kids should be drinking it too.
As sales in diet sodas have been dropping, soda makers and marketers scramble to convince the public that artificial sweeteners are safe. The FDA gives artificial sweeteners a stamp of approval, and thus they are steeped in our food supply, including soda.
As a childhood nutrition expert, I recommend a small and limited role for diet soda in the diet of children, and that is its use in transitioning overweight children from a regular soda drinking habit to a diet soda drinking habit. This is a very temporary fix with the end-goal being a no diet soda drinking habit.
Soda and kids shouldn’t mix, except on a very occasional basis and here’s why:
- Kids are growing, and that process requires many nutrients (over 40!) from quality food. Soda offers either sugar or artificial sugar, which doesn’t meet the nutrient and growth requirements of children. An occasional soda is probably OK, but this is a decision for you to make.
- Diet soda is full of artificial sweeteners, which, although proven safe in adults and mice, has not been tested in children. We simply don’t know the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners on growing children.
- Many diet sodas are full of caffeine, and some rank higher than regular soda. Caffeine is not recommended for children, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stands against the use of caffeine in growing children. Large doses of caffeine, such as those found in energy drinks, are dangerous for kids and teens. And truth be told, kids can certainly drink too much caffeine from diet soda.
- Last, research indicates the use of artificial sweeteners may trick the brain and tongue into thinking it has had something sweet and of caloric value. Studies show that individuals don’t eat less after consuming artificial sweetener, rather they tend to eat more! This defeats the entire purpose, doesn’t it?
My advice for kids: keep it real, keep it nutritious, and keep it safe.
What’s your stance on diet soda?
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: August 15, 2013
Updated on: August 14, 2019