Helping kids kick the sugar habit

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Paul Martiquet | October 25th, 2016

Here is a question few will answer correctly: How many cubes of sugar are in a large (1 litre) slushy drink? And if you think that’s much too large a serving, just watch kids coming out of the corner convenience store and see how often they’re carrying a giant drink. Oh, and if you guessed 24 cubes, you’re right. Then again, if you were surprised, don’t worry as most people will be.

Sip Smart! BC was created to help educate kids and families about consuming sugary drinks. The program, originally tested in 2008 with grade 4 students in 20 schools around BC, has been updated by a partnership of the BC Pediatric Society and the BC Government and funded by Provincial Health Authorities. Sip Smart! BC is being rolled out now for students in grades 4, 5 and 6.

Sip Smart! BC is an educational program that helps teach students about sugary drinks and healthy drink choices. Because most sugary drinks provide little or no nutrition, they are a poor option against healthy drinks like water and plain milk. Need to satisfy a thirst? Water is the best choice and is a sugar-free way to stay hydrated, energized and alert.

Sugary drinks abound in store coolers everywhere. They include the usual and obvious like pop or slushies, but also sitting on the shelf are ‘fruit punch’ and ‘you-name-it-ade’. In fact, almost anything that is not labelled 100% fruit juice will contain added sugar, and maybe little or no juice! Sports and energy drinks and even flavoured waters are all culprits containing added sugar.

But how much sugar are we talking about? To find out, read the ingredients label and for every four grams of sugar, count a teaspoon, or one sugar cube. That means the average can of pop contains 10 cubes’ worth (40 grams) of sugar! Bubble tea? 21 cubes in a 500 ml serving.

While the Sip Smart! BC program provides information for teachers in the classroom, it also has materials for families to use at home. Even if your child does not receive instruction at school, the parents’ handbook is a rich source of information. All materials are available online via the Sip Smart! BC website.

The program’s handbook for teachers is available online along with multiple supporting handouts, overheads and other classroom materials. There are fact sheets, lesson plans, handouts, indeed, everything you might need to teach kids about drinking sugar.

The first lesson in the program, called ‘Drink Detective’ is a delightful introduction to the subject. It provides three activities starting with ‘Sugar Shocker’ and is followed by ‘Drink Check’ and ‘Drink Diary.’ Other lessons build on this opening by discussing how to use Canada’s Food Guide, how water is most beneficial, and how it’s not just sugar we should watch for in our drinks.

The goal of the Sip Smart!BC program is to help kids make healthy choices. Specifically, that “when kids are thirsty, they reach for healthy thirst-quenchers. Sugary drinks are everywhere, but healthy drink choices are better for a child’s health.”

About the Author

Paul Martiquet
email iconPaul.Martiquet@vch.ca  

Educated at McGill and the University of Toronto, Dr. Martiquet practiced family medicine in Ontario before moving into the field of community medicine. As Medical Health Officer for rural Vancouver Coastal Health he works to improve the community’s health by providing support and advice about epidemiology, health promotion, disease prevention and public health protection.

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