Confession: I Let My Kids Drink Diet Soda

Approaching almost 40, you would think I wouldn’t be concerned about writing this post. Having had multiple conversations with my almost nine year old daughter that go something like this, “You just can’t worry about what other people think,” and “If they don’t like you for who you are, then you don’t want to be their friend anyway,” you would think I would be self-confident and assured.

Having survived middle school, gone to college and graduate school you would think I would feel secure and poised about what I am about to write.

But the truth is, I feel I am about to be skewered.  Let’s face it, if you have to go into hiding or quit your job over a Facebook post or tweet, it’s clear that people have opinions and are passionate about them.

So cue the firing squad…. Ready the guillotine…. Here’s my confession:

 I let my children drink diet soda.

There, I’ve said it. I’ve come clean. But before you read me my rights, let me explain my rationale.

I have three children — almost nine, a four year old and a three year old. I work part time and I have a husband who travels for work. Like most families life is crazy, busy, and hard. Life is also wonderful, fun, and sweet and I consider myself very blessed and lucky, but I am trying to be realistic here too. When you are outnumbered and playing zone defense life can get a little sticky (literally and figuratively).  Even simple things can become a battle. For example, here is a recent “conversation” (let’s use that term loosely) with my three year old.

Three year old: “I want chocolate milk, please.”

Me: Pour chocolate milk into cup. “Here is your chocolate milk.”

Three year old wailing like you just took away her favorite lovey, “I don’t want that chocolate milk. I wanted to pour it. That chocolate milk is yucky.”

And so begins my day at 6:15 AM.

So when we are on the playground and my child asks for some of the diet soda I am drinking, I oblige. Why would any mother do this you ask – especially a dietitian mother? Well, here are a few reasons:

  1. I am desperate for three minutes of adult conversation and allowing my child to have this “sip” will give me that.
  2. I am avoiding a total meltdown (see above for senseless melt-down reasons) – AKA, choosing my battles.
  3. It’s not going to hurt her. In essence my diet soda is water, a little low-calorie sweetener, and some coloring. It’s really nothing compared to the gum she ate off the floor of the international terminal in the airport the other day.

But in all seriousness, I know diet soda is OK. In fact, I know full calorie soda is OK. My approach to eating, and most all things in life, is balance and moderation. Is diet soda the staple of their beverage diet – no. Our “go to” is milk, water and a little juice here and there. But if we are out to dinner and it’s a special night, we do allow them to have an occasional soda or diet soda.

And while you may think I say this view because my paycheck comes from the industry, I know I say this because I am knowledgeable. It’s my area of expertise. It has to be. I’ve been working in this arena for 15+ years. I know the research on sweeteners and I feel comfortable with them. So much so, that I will give it to my kids. And, if you don’t believe me, check out this recent article in the New York Times from a pediatrician.

I’m not trying to convince the world to give their kids diet soda. I am just speaking about my experience and what’s right for my family. As a mother, I want what is best for my children, but also what is practical and real. And as a dietitian, I stand by the science. So for all of you out there who are ready to see me hung, don’t worry. I’ve already got the noose ready. My kid just asked for some chocolate milk again.



bethjpgBeth Hubrich, MS, RD, LD Beth is well versed in clinical nutrition, food service, nutrition communications, and community and public health. She holds a B.S. in nutrition and food science from FSU and a Master’s in nutrition and food science from Texas Woman’s University. Beth has worked with CNN and has written for Today’s Dietitian and USA Today magazine.  She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), as well as a founding member of the Weight Management  and the Dietitians in Business and Communications dietetic practice groups.  Beth has served as a nutrition and food communications specialist for the Calorie Control Council for a number of years. She currently lives in the Southeast with her husband and three young children.

faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.

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