Schools encourage students to drink water, not sodas

By Linda Breazeale

MSU Ag Communications


Mississippi schools are leading the national effort to reduce excessive sugar intake from beverages that can do students more harm than good, and parents can follow their example at home.

Becke Bounds, assistant director of child nutrition with the Mississippi Department of Education, said Mississippi schools eliminated all full-calorie, sugared carbonated soft drinks during the school day in 2007. Steps have also been taken to make all school food healthier.

“Mississippi has been way ahead of the nation at addressing snack and vending issues at schools,” she said. “On the national level, schools have only recently started addressing these nutritional concerns.”

The Mississippi Department of Education regulations allow only water and 100 percent fruit juices in vending machines for elementary and middle schools. In addition to those options, sports drinks are permitted in high schools. Students are allowed to bring low-fat or skim milk from home.

Dawn Vosbein, a family and consumer science agent in Pearl River County with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, agreed that Mississippi schools are ahead of most states in efforts to provide healthier options at schools.

“Next, we need parents to adopt similar nutritional policies when the children are in their care,” she said. “Really, these are good standards for everyone.”

Vosbein said children should not drink sugary sodas or anything with caffeine.

“Cut sports drinks in half with water because the concentrated amount of sodium could end up dehydrating instead of rehydrating. During athletic activities, water does not have enough sodium, and undiluted sports drinks may have too much sodium,” said Vosbein, an exercise physiologist and former athletic trainer. “Adding water will also reduce the cost of the drinks.”

From an academic standpoint, physically fit students typically perform better in their studies, Vosbein pointed out.

Natasha Haynes, an Extension family and consumer science agent based in Rankin County, said the bottom line is that people who drink soft drinks take in more calories than those who do not.

“Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages has been associated with weight gain, overweight, obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” she said. “A can of soda has 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. If these calories are added to the typical diet without cutting back on something else, one soda a day could lead to a weight gain of 15 pounds in one year.”

Similar statistics contributed to the 2013 national spotlight on the health impact of excessive consumption of colas.