Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Are Energy Drinks Bad for Kids?

“The more things that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you will go.”   
                                                 --Dr. Seuss

As a parent, the last thing I want is a trip to a hospital emergency department with my son.  So when I saw the headline, “US sees more energy-drink-related ED visits among youths,” I had to keep reading.  According to a study in Nutrition Reviews, emergency department (ED) visits related to energy drinks increased from 1,145 in 2007 to 1,449 in 2011 among youths 12-17. It seems that sales of energy drinks also rose 53% during the study period.  Study coauthor Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut said, “Something needs to be done to reduce the dangers of these products to children.” 

"We're invisible, right?"  Playing with cucumbers at a recent Growing Healthy Kids Program for children in the Youth Guidance Mentoring and Activities Program.  

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with several hundred sixth graders about the Growing Healthy Kids organization.  While polling the kids about foods and meals that can give you energy and help you focus and take tests, I saw firsthand the response to foods and drinks loaded with added sugars. The mention of certain high sugar and “energy” drinks got a huge response from the kids.  These sixth graders saw nothing wrong with drinking these energy drinks every day.  We talked about how and why companies market foods and drinks that are filled with added sugars, salts, and fats directly to kids.   We talked about product placement and I gave them all an assignment to do:  on their next visit to the grocery store, go down the cereal aisle and notice which cereals are at their eye level.  Then notice which cereals are on the top shelf, beyond their reach. 

I asked the sixth graders about Pop Tarts which elicited another crazy reaction from the 12 year olds.  We talked about the colors on the front of the package.  Then I asked them this question that stopped them in their tracks:  Would you still want to eat Pop Tarts if the package was in black and white instead of pretty, bright colors?  They all said no.  Interesting…

Marketing bad foods to kids is big business in America.   It is done very intentionally.  A lot of money is spent to market and sell cheap food to our most vulnerable citizens. 

It is up to you and me to become literate about our health, our children’s health.  Eat real, whole foods:  fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes like lentils.  Avoid processed foods:  think outside the box.  Be a role model for a child.  Shop with your children at the local farmers market.  Let your kids pick out a cool gadget at your local kitchen store.  Cook together. Eat together.  Repeat.    

Another wonderful week and another wonderful conversation on with my friend, Chef Michael Glatz, from La Patissiere.  Have some fun and listen to "Pop Up Health" by clicking here.

Have a picky eater at home??  Send  me a question you would like me to answer on "Pop Up Health", then shoot me an email at  Please include the age(s) of your kid(s).

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder of the Growing Healthy Kids Project