The Soda Culture

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The first graders at my daughters’ school took a field trip to see Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. I’m all for field trips. If this one got kids excited about Dr. Seuss and reading, so much the better.

There was one thing about the field trip announcement that bothered me, though. The movie snack pack would include popcorn, soda and a treat.

This note describes a school field trip to see The Lorax.

Am I alone in the universe in thinking that giving 5- to 7-year-old children soda to drink crosses a line? The popcorn, and even the candy, don’t bother me much. We eat both these things at home, in moderation. Adding soda to that, though, seemed like too much. All the more astonishing to me was that my girls weren’t even offered water, even though I’d jotted a note on both their permission slips requesting water for them. At lunch, too, they told me that they were only offered sodas.

J and M’s first exposure to sugary sodas was soon after we moved to El Paso. They were given it at daycare. They then stopped going to daycare, and fast. Once they’d had a taste, I didn’t think that forbidding sugary drinks would accomplish the goal of good decision-making. Instead, we struck a deal. When I drank soda, they could drink soda. This has been keeping us all honest. We limit ourselves to a sweet drink, other than juice or milk, once a month, just as we limit chocolate and other candy to once or twice a week.

Obviously, kids drinking soda is part of the culture here, but is it any surprise that we have an obesity problem? How can I encourage the kids to choose healthy options when their peers often don’t?

How do you go about bucking trends or local culture when you want your kids to choose differently?

Sadia, her husband, and their twin 5-year-old daughters, M and J, are still learning about the culture of the Borderlands, following a move to El Paso from Central Texas in August 2011.

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

13 thoughts on “The Soda Culture”

  1. My 3 yr olds get club soda (with lemon if avail). They really don’t know regular soda. Most places with fountain soda systems have it available, and it’s always a special treat when they get it (they call it fizzy water).

    But yes, I think giving any child soda as the only option, esp from people who should know better, is wrong. Of course I am the mom who took away a Huggie drink (those horrible things sold in barrel shaped containers) from my daughter at birthday party.

  2. I agree. My boys are almost 5 and have yet to try the stuff. Rarely even have juice. Chocolate milk is their special treat if we go out for dinner. My kids will be the first ones to tell me that “we don’t eat candy often b/c too much of it is not good for you.” Love it. Now, I’m not sure what they would do in a situation like yours–probably would happily drink the soda. Guess we need to work on helping them make healthy choices on their own.

    Can’t believe they wouldn’t even give your girls water–crazy!!

  3. My son is weird, at 4 years old he refuses to drink anything but milk and water. He won’t drink juice, soda or any other flavored beverage.
    I agree, sugary beverages of any kind should be limited. And our kids should always be offered water first.

  4. I am pretty lucky to be able to have kept our girls in a “food bubble” so far. At three, they’ve never tasted soda, or had fast food, or anything fried…several things that I suspect are pretty standard for many families. (I don’t mean to judge…we all have our own ideals…that’s just not for us right now.)

    I dread the day that they’re in the situation you describe. Ultimately we have to teach our children to make good decisions, even when those around them don’t…but I think it’s probably tougher when an institution such as a day care or school is modeling what I would consider poor choices.

  5. My twins are 2.5 and have never tasted soda. They are only given milk or water to drink. I don’t even offer juice because of the sugar. At this age, I do it more because I’m concerned about their teeth, but as they grow older, obesity is certainly a concern. I also figure that if I never give them sweets, then I don’t have to deal with them begging for them!

  6. Helpful perspective from an El Paso native, mommy, and former educator from Facebook :

    Ok, so two things to remember. 1- El Paso has one of the highest obesity rates in the country. 2- When I think of El Paso, I think of refried beans and deep fried sopapillas (YUM!), not so much on humus and leafy greens. So, here’s my thought on this. I think it’s great that you are aware that sugary soda is not the best option for your girls. And as a former educator, I think it’s perfectly appropriate for you to bring up your dissatisfaction with the teacher to, at the very least, explain that these options are not for your girls. I realize you are in quite a culture shock,coming from extraordinarily health-conscious Austin to El Paso, but the only way you can make a difference is to offer positive alternatives. Talk to the PTA. Discuss healthier options with the teaching staff. Or, simply tell your girls that they should choose healthier menu options. Most importantly, I think shaming the school system and passing judgement is counter-productive.
    And just to comment on one of the comments about the background check, I believe that is a state law (at least it was when I taught in Arizona). It’s not an Ysleta thing. Remember, you may be closer to Mexico, but you’re still in Texas. Welcome to to the Texas public school system!

  7. I won’t even give my kids Chocolate milk. They have plain organic milk and water. They have had juice, only watered down 50/50 and only when they are not feeling well and I want to push fluids. We avoid anything with HFCS and unfortunately most soda and chocolate milk and so-called juices have that as a 1st or 2nd ingredient.

    My boys have, however, had fast food and while I would have been fine never giving them fries, my mom did when she was visiting and they were hooked. We offer them only occasionally as a special treat, and only after they have eaten their dinner.

    I drank soda as a kid but that was back when it was sugar and water, not the bevy of chemicals we know today.

  8. Interesting comment from Facebook.

    I’ve found that things I am non-negotiable on other people don’t mind at all so it’s personal preferences. Still, even at church (the only place our kids go that is out of my control….) I write on their lunch bags, “these kids are not allowed anything but water and the biscuits I pack” (ProVita – healthy, non-sugar, wholewheat crackers)

  9. The only way to change established doctorine or at least start discussion and alternative choices is to make your voice heard. Speak up, contact the PTA and because often in these discussions, the audience being addressed can quickly go on the defensive believing you think yourself better than they, keep your audience in mind. Instead of making it about a personal concern (yours), make it about “our children’s health & nutrition choices” thus the key word… “choice”!

    I have 4 yr old twins who are allowed water and watered down pure apple juice w/ the occasional choc milk. I educate them, show them my fillings & tell them about my dentist visits. They are captivated by this story. I ask then, “Are you both going to have cavities like mama?” They say no. “Why not?” because we dont eat lots of sugar and we brush our teeth. They are very pleased & proud with this whole interaction. I always try and avoid conflict by giving them the tools (education) to make their own decisions. Please speak up and start a dialogue. I would have been furious at this scenario and asked for a meeting immediately.

    fizzywater (great idea/substitute btw @ twinmamateb).

  10. Oh, the food thing.

    I have put so much thought into how to feed our kids. I am overweight (but always exercising a lot and trying not to be!) and my husband was so overweight that he had gastric bypass when F and J were 18 months old. Since then we have been even more aware of how food-centered everything is. Case in point: my 4.5 year old daughter takes a 45 minute dance class once a week. They have had: a halloween party, Christmas party and Valentines party in which the teacher brings in cookies, juice, candy, etc and the girls are encouraged to bring each other little goodie bags. So basically, they dance for 30 minutes and eat their body weight in carbs and sugar for 15. Before all of these “parties” I coach my daughter on what she can eat (ex. 1 bag of “real” food like pretzels plus 1 sweet) or I give her the option of not having any sweets at the party and instead having something sweet after dinner that night. That way she knows this isn’t an all-day-candy-buffet. So far it has worked perfectly and the very obese teacher has remarked with astonishment that Faith turned down some of the treats. But left on her own I think she would eat until sick.

    The other thing I do to buck the system is have her take in non-food “goodies” for her ballet friends. We bought 8 $1 wooden ballerinas for the girls to color once, and then gave them homemade hair bows for Valentine’s day.

    This food thing is tough, but I am going to do everything I can to give my kids the best eating and exercising habits I can.

    And my son has tasted soda once when with a babysitter, but Faith hasn’t. And neither have ever had a real french fry. They will eat oven baked potatoes but they don’t even notice fries. Which means my hubby and I don’t eat them either! It is a win-win.

    Gosh, I could go on and on!

  11. I’ve noticed that I’m really judgmental about others’ choices regarding food and their children. I feel pretty high and mighty about it sometimes.


    Then I realize that I feed my kids things that some people might be shocked and horrified by (like some fried foods when we’ve been out at a restaurant)

    So I come down off of my high horse – LOL!

    I want to keep my kids in a pretty tight food bubble for as long as possible (they are just about to turn 1 year) and I try to offer them as large a range of food as possible. I *am* pleased to say that they’ve never had a chicken nugget and I am extremely annoyed when I go places and everyone assumes that’s what I’m looking for on the menu.

    I do think I would freak out though if I received a letter like this from school. 5-7 year olds should absolutely not be offered soda, candy, and movie theater popcorn during a school-sponsored trip. I’m completely horrified by that. I don’t even think it should be a situation where an alternative is offered. I don’t think that stuff should be an option. period. I think I’d feel differently if it were middle-school-aged kids, but 5 year olds????? ugh!

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