To be blunt, drinking soda is one of the worst things you can do for your health. Consuming soda on a regular basis is strongly linked to obesity, poor heart health, and reduced lifespan.

Eliminating soda from your diet is one of the easiest and most effective ways to become healthier and improve your lifestyle. And for your kids, cutting out soda can be a big step in protecting their health, helping them stay at a healthy weight, and reducing their likelihood of certain health problems in the future.

One big reason soda is so harmful is that it is loaded with sugar. The average soda contains a whopping 7-10 teaspoons of sugar.

The average American adult consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day. (Added sugar refers to sugar that doesn’t occur naturally in foods.) Most of the added sugar people consume comes from sugary drinks, like soda.

Dietary guidelines recommend that the amount of added sugar you consume should not exceed 10% of your total caloric intake. This translates to about 200 calories (percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet), or 12 teaspoons.

And for your kids, it’s even less. The American Heart Association recommends that children aged 2-18 years consume only six teaspoons of added sugar per day.

So if you drink a soda, you’ve pretty much consumed all of your sugar for the day. And for a child, one soda is over their daily limit!

More and more people are beginning to take notice of the health problems associated with frequent soda consumption. In fact, many cities and states are calling for a soda tax, which is an additional tax placed on sodas and, in some places, other sugar-sweetened beverages.

Avoiding soda, however, should go beyond avoiding an additional tax. Your family’s health may depend upon limiting their consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

Why is Consuming too Much Sugar Bad for You?

There are many reasons you should limit your child’s consumption of sugar, particularly sugar found in processed food and sugary beverages. (And this applies to your own sugar consumption, too, so pay attention!)

Here are a handful of reasons you should really watch your child’s sugar intake:

1) Sugar leads to weight gain, and particularly the accumulation of “visceral fat.”

Consuming sugar causes you to gain weight around the abdomen — “visceral fat.” This kind of fat, also known as belly fat, is especially dangerous because it is so close to your vital organs. Having a high percentage of visceral fat has been linked to conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

That doesn’t sound like something I want to sign my child up for!

One of the main factors contributing to the rising obesity rates in the Western world is that sugar has become a much larger part of our diet. Reducing your child’s soda consumption can help them stay at a healthy weight and lower their risk of obesity and its related health conditions.

If your child is struggling with excess weight gain, quitting soda can go a long way in their health journey.

2) Sugar weakens your resistance to leptin, or the “hunger hormone.”

Leptin is an important hormone that regulates your hunger levels. Fructose, a type of sugar found in sugary drinks, interferes with the signals leptin sends to your body to stop eating.

This makes it harder to stay slim and not overeat. For your child, this means they will probably feel hungrier and continue eating past their normal “full” point.

This can lead to unnecessary snacking and overeating. And when these overeating habits continue in the long term, your child may face excess weight gain and even obesity.

3) Sugary foods fail to provide you with the nutrients you need.

Sugary foods are empty calories—they fill you up without providing nutritional value. This makes it harder for you to obtain nutrients without overeating.

Have you ever tried to get your kid to finish their healthy, nutritious dinner after they already drank a soda? It’s near impossible!

Avoiding soda can help your child fill up on nutritious foods instead of empty, sugary calories.

4) Too much sugar can increase your risk of cancer.

Having high levels of insulin is linked to being at risk for cancer. Also, cancer cells feed on glucose, a kind of sugar.

This is just plain scary. Protect your child’s health now by helping them quit soda.

5) High sugar intake can increase your risk of heart disease.

One study involving more than 30,000 people showed that those consumption of sugar was 17-21% of their total caloric intake had a 38% greater risk of dying from heart disease compared to those whose consumption of sugar was only 8% of their total caloric intake.

By helping your child avoid soda and all of its sugar, you’re helping your child keep their heart healthy.

6) Consuming lots of sugar can increase your risk of diabetes.

Sugar consumption, obesity, and diabetes are all closely linked. Obesity is one of the main drivers of diabetes, and excess sugar consumption is one of the main causes of obesity.

Also, consuming too much sugar for a long time creates resistance to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, which causes your blood sugar levels to rise.

So as it turns out, you can reduce your child’s risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer with one simple move: cutting out soda.

7) Sugar consumption can increase your risk of depression.

Researchers have found a correlation between frequent consumption of sugary drinks and one’s risk of being depressed. One study involving more than 69,000 postmenopausal women found that those with a high glycemic index, or those who consumed foods that cause blood sugar levels to rise, had a much higher risk of becoming depressed.

While this study was obviously not focused on children, it’s an important point to remember. Sugar has a huge impact on your child’s health—both physical and mental. Cutting out soda and therefore reducing your child’s sugar intake can help them avoid depression.

8) Sugar AND soda can lead to tooth decay.

This probably isn’t a surprise—drinking soda can lead to tooth decay and cavities. To keep your child’s teeth healthy and strong, limit their intake of soda and other sugary foods and drinks. Your kid’s dentist will be happy to hear the news!

Healthy Alternatives to Soda

There are many healthy alternatives to soda you can offer your child. Most of them even taste good!

However, it’s important to realize that not all non-soda drinks are good for your children. Many juices are also high in added sugars and can bring many of the same health concerns as soda.

The next time your child asks for a soda, consider trying one of these healthier beverages instead: 

1) High-protein organic milk

Horizon makes organic reduced-fat milk with 12 g of protein per serving. Milk is also a good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.

2) Beet juice

Beets are rich in nitrates, antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. They also contain folate, a vitamin that helps with cell growth and converts carbohydrates into energy.

3) Water

You can never go wrong with water.

Drinking water has many health benefits. It regulates body temperature, helps your blood carry oxygen throughout the body, helps your digestive system work properly, and regulates your blood pressure, among other things.

And if your child wants a little more flavor than is offered by plain water, try infused water. Simply add sliced fruits (or vegetables!) to your water pitcher. They will infuse their flavor into the water for a tasty, fresh alternative to sweetened beverages.

So instead of giving your child an increased likelihood of many health problems with soda, you can give them health benefits instead with one of these drink options.

Of course, it may not be practical to assume that your child will never drink soda again. But you can ensure that your kid limits their soda consumption, and you can also start to educate them as to why drinking soda is bad for their health.

After all, a healthy lifestyle starts at home!