Diet Soda for Kids

Updated on March 07, 2010
G.G. asks from Aurora, IL
43 answers

First of all let me tell you that my children drink a ton of milk and that is usually their drink of choice. Soda is given as a treat. I was curious on your thoughts of soda vs diet soda for children on an occasion. My husband is a big fan of diet but I am not sure it is good for kids, long term effects, cancer etc. If anyone has any good info that i can point out to my husband that would be great. He seems to think Diet is better for them

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answers from Mobile on

Izzes are great occasional "sodas." The are part juice and part sparkling water. I think the blackberry and clementine flavors are probably the most appealing to kids. I get mine at SuperTarget--I think in the New Age beverage aisle? Weird. I'd also rather give sugar than fake sugar if they are set on the more traditional ones, though.

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answers from Dallas on

I personally don't think diet soda is good for anyone.....
I wonder what is really in it and what sort of long term affects we will be hearing about 20 years from now. I say go for the 'real' sugar instead :o)

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answers from Cleveland on

If you are only giving it as a treat anyway then I would just give them the regular soda. I don't trust those artificial sweeteners and wouldn't give them to children.

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answers from St. Cloud on

Hi G.! My dad had severe seziure activity and nearly died from aspartame poisoning. All from drinking Diet Pepsi.
When diet drinks are left in hot warehouses, the chemical composition changes to make formaldyhyde.
My kids both have Type 1 diabetes and our endocrinologist recommends NEVER giving sugar free drinks because it makes blood sugars worse AND the response that R.m. gave is absolutely right. There is research being done that suggests that diet drinks are a major culprit in the cause of Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The lesser of the evil is regular soda! Even my kids get a small amount an an occasional treat.
Excellent question.....and I hope you are able to talk some sense into your hubby! :)

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answers from Indianapolis on

As someone who's had cancer, I'm going to respond from a different point of view.

There are NO long-term studies on record showing that any of the artificial sweeteners are directly linked to cancer. I don't know what caused me to have cancer, and I worry all the time - but, my Oncologist didn't tell me to stop having a diet soda once/day because the evidence is just not there.

Should children have large volumes of any soda (diet or regular)? NO! But, as an occasional treat? What is the harm? I don't see it - check out the labels of your drinks. Most now have sucralose (Splenda) including Fruit20, etc.

Juices are just as high in sugar as sugary sodas - if you get a reduced calorie juice to be healthy, it probably has an artificial sweetener in it.

ANYTHING in excess is problematic! Milk, in excess, is very fattening and high carb (check the label, lactose is a sugar and makes the carb ingestion go up).

I hope my point of view is somewhat helpful. I have 2 young children, and I would never want them to have to go through what I did, but we just don't know what causes most cancers (and all cancers are different).

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answers from Las Vegas on

There are MANY articles about the negative effects of diet soda... let alone regular soda.. if you go to Mercola.Com
In addition, MILK is a bit over-rated as well.. many articles about both that too.
also, go to
best of luck

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answers from Dallas on

Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar, and some animal research has linked consumption of high amounts of the sweetener to brain tumors and lymphoma in rodents. The FDA maintains that the sweetener is safe, but reported side effects include dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, memory loss, and mood changes. Bottom line: Diet soda does you no good, and it might just be doing you wrong.
Just because diet soda is low in calories doesn't mean it can't lead to weight gain.

why to give your child artificial sweet drinks when he can drink 100% juice and is better for her health

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answers from Portland on

I would stay away from the diet soda or any regular soda containing high fructose corn syrup. Here's a great article about the interaction of combined ingredients in soda...

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answers from Nashville on

NO diet, and here is why- I read something a while back and I wish I could remember where so I could back this up but I don't. So I will just give you the quick version: Artificial sweeteners actually do something to train your body not to be able to process real sugars, including fruit sugars. So instead of being able to just use the sugar that is given in moderation and burn it off, your body converts it in to fat or something like that. I avoid all artificial sweeteners in jello, canned fruit, pretty much anything that has that Low or No Sugar Added label. There are sodas now that also have no high fructose corn syrup, since they are just kids and probably don't have a major preference now for Dr. Pepper or whatever, I would give those. I think even Pepsi or Coke has a limited time Real Sugar soda right now. I feel much safer with the devil I know. Sorry I can't remember the specifics better for you.

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answers from St. Louis on

If it is given as a treat, have you tried natural sodas? They don't contain high fructose corn syrup or any artificial sweetners. And they taste awesome!

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answers from Chicago on

oh NO!! just read anything here:

I would never give diet anything with aspartame or splenda to a child. A safer no calorie, no caffeine, no aspartame or splenda, alternative would be Zevia. Available at Whole Foods and Fruitful Yield stores in the Chicagoland area, it's sweetened with stevia which is a plant based, 0 cal sweetener made from a plant. I'm sure you've seen the commercials for Truvia and Pure Via, etc. Well Zevia is made with that, and I love it for my occasional twice a month soda choice. It comes in all kinds of kid friendly flavors too, ginger root beer, cola, lemon lime, orange, cherry and ginger ale, maybe more, see their website. --I think you can also get coupons there. and whole foods puts it on sale quite a bit.

try it, it's yummy and also has no caffeine.....and they now have a Dr. Zevia flavor that I cannot wait to try!!!

Here's another good site to look up healthy drinks:

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answers from San Francisco on

I would steer away from diet. They say its better, less calories, blah, blah, blah. The sugar alternatives are bad for anyone, I would think especially for kids. Diet sodas can cause long term health issues. They can also make you have more cravings causing you to eat more than you would if you didn't have the diet soda. Our kids get watered down juice, even at 3 1/2, to give them the treat but not the concentrate of sugar from 100% juice. The V8 fusions are a great treat for the kids too because of all the nutrients and great flavors.

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answers from Los Angeles on

What about just sparkling water mixed half and half with fruit juice? That sounds like a good alternative. I would try to stay away from diet soda for sure.

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answers from Richmond on

I would absolutley not give my kids artificial sweeteners. I let my 7 year old have regualr sprite...maybe once a month as a treat when we go out. Otherwise she likes water with lemon.



answers from Atlanta on

Both me and my husband love Diet Coke and use artificial sweeteners in coffee, food, etc. However, we decided to try and avoid these for our twin girls as long as possible. I know there is no definitive evidence linking artificial sweeteners to cancer or other health problems but why not try to avoid them while they are growing just in case? For less calories, we often cut their juice with 1/2 water and encourage them to drink plain water as often as possible. Good luck




answers from Tulsa on

If you do research on diet drinks you will find that a lot of Doctors and nutrtionist believe that there is a possible connection between diet drinks and MS. Artificial things are not good for us. If you want to limit sugar then use things that don't require sugar or regulate how many, like you do already. I get horrid migraines with Aspertame, as does my daughter and my mother.

A friend of mine who is an Insulin Resistant Diabetic went to a specialist in OKC and was told that she was killing herself drinking diet drinks. As soon as she stopped drinking them she was able to use an insulin pump for a while and is now just using diet and a sinlge med to keep her body regulated.



answers from Salt Lake City on

Either in moderation is fine. Small amounts of the high-fructose corn syrup are no problem (fruit juice actually has as much sugar as soda, just a bit diferent kind, and with more nutrients, of course). Artificial sweetners are used in such small amounts in the beverages that it would take an awful lot to get to the levels that were linked to future illnesses/cancer/etc in lab tests.

The sweetener is not necessarily the worst part of soda. Carbonic acid (from the carbonation) can be bad for teeth, and caffiene (not in all sodas, of course) is not great either. And other ingredients can have side effects too! Not that this stops me from an occaisional soda (for me or my kids). The key is moderation, as you know :)



answers from Houston on

I would go with regular if you're going to let them have any at all. I mix 7up or sprite with fruit juice so my children don't get quite as much of the soda in a cup. They love it and like to try different "recipes"....sometimes cranberry, sometimes orange, sometimes grape, etc.


answers from Wichita on

I second Jen B's answer



answers from Austin on

I have more of an issue with the caffeine and sugar. My kids do, every once in a blue moon, get a caffeine/sugar free soda. To share. I don't feel like it's practical to NEVER give them a soda, but a little in moderation isn't a big deal. They actually prefer juice. The v8 fusion is great, tastes good (better than soda) and has a full serving of fruit/veggies.
Anyway- Personally, I would focus more on sugar intake than "diet" vs. regular.


answers from Houston on

I don't think either in moderation is a problem. I give my son soda as a treat occasionally and I just cut it with some water to reduce the carbonation. If it is a very limited thing I don't see any issues. As far as cancer goes, who knows what carcinogenic things we come in contact with daily, I wouldn't worry about it, some people still think chicken is associated with cancer but most of us eat it. As you said, milk and water are drinks of choice everything else has to me taken with moderation.



answers from Little Rock on

I personally do not agree with diet sodas & will not consume artificial sweetners myself. I honestly believe that we will eventually see more proof of damage from artificial sweetners many years from now. I personally only allow my son 100% juice & milk in his own cup. He does "steal" drinks from my regular soda, but I keep his teeth brushed faithfully. My theory has always been, "if you don't allow it, they will not expect it". It has worked well with my son. He is 2 1/2 & when we order at a restaurant, he orders a water!!



answers from Boston on

What is diet soda if not a pointless cocktail of biologically useless-at-best-if-not-harmful chemicals?

Regular sugary soda is like ice cream and fudge -- a treat that nobody should eat as a regular part of the diet, but many of us like to indulge in from time to time. If you treat soda like any other high-calorie treat, you are teaching your kids how to moderate their consumption of these things rather than binge. Once they get out of your sphere of control and have access to vending machines and pocket money, they will need to know how to make good choices. Offering them diet soda takes you down a path where they say "Oh it's OK to drink that in quantity because at least I'm not buying the sugary stuff." If the diet soda is in fact unsafe, that's trouble, and if it is safe, it's a waste of money, no?

Remember too that all carbonated beverages -- with or without sugar -- are marketed by huge multinational companies with a profit imperative. Coke and Pepsi really don't care about public health. Unlike ice cream and fudge, kids are getting dozens of messages every day saying "buy this stuff, drink it to be cool." Offering diet creates a little wiggle room, a little chink in the armor, where kids can start to argue "It's a beverage, it's not a treat, because it has no calories, right?" and consumption is at risk of creeping upwards.

(as an aside, I always wondered who buys the caffeine free diet soda...)


answers from Dallas on

I understand that it is just a "treat" which does not bother me. However, I don't think diet would be a good choice. I'd go with regular soda.



answers from Chicago on

Do yourself and your family a favor and quit drinking chemicals.
Maybe this link can help you make a better decision.
Not in a million years would I let my kids drink that stuff.
Good luck!



answers from Flagstaff on

I don't like those fake sugars either. If you are giving in moderation, regular sodas are fine



answers from Chicago on

I would never give my child soda of any kind. Just my personal opinion. However, as someone who works in a dental office, I hear the dentist speaking about soda to parents all the time. The damage it does to your teeth is the equivalent of drinking battery acid and Pepsi the worst. She always says that if you absolutely have to have soda the best one (for your teeth) is root beer because it's the least acidic. And be sure to give them lots of water throughout the day too.



answers from St. Louis on

I'm glad you said it's only a treat, because my first thought was why would you give kids soda! So, here's what I hear from my friends - several are natural health professionals and a dr. Do not give them diet soda. The chemicals are VERY unhealthy for them,even in moderation. So, if that's what they need for a treat, I'd go with the regular soda - less chemicals. (I like the idea of the lady who said she mixes it with juice....).



answers from Chicago on

I was told my my son's neurologist that diet pop of any kind is bad for children. It triggers miss fires on the nurons. My son has had episodes of his eye (yes one) moving to the ll o 'clock position in his socket and ended up in the hospital for three days. The docs told me to avoid all diet anything for him as it is impairing how the brain send signals to the receptors. Just like anything in life..real is the best or not at all.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Absolutely not! Diet food is not appropriate for children. I personally feel that artificial sweeteners are totally inappropriate for children.

I will often mix homemade lemonade or a fruit juice with sparkling water. It gives the child a fizzy drink with flavor and you get to control how much sugar the child has.

Artificial sweeteners are very nasty. Look up Aspartame and see how it is produced. Do you really want to ingest that?

Personally, I do not permit diet anything in my house unless we are having guests and the guest gets to take the leftovers home. I am severely allergic to artificial sweeteners.



answers from Chicago on

Do the research yourself and then see if it is worth taking the risk. He also has articles on the dangers of high fructose syrup found in regular soda too. I will occasionally have a sip of soda but I stay away from it period!



answers from Chicago on

How about not giving soda at all. There is no nutritional value to about Crystal Light or just a juice box. Soda, regular and diet both have lots of acid that is horrible for kids' teeth. I work in a dentist office and see way too much dental decay b/c of excessive amounts of sugary drinks, sodas and juice. If soda is a "treat", they are both equally bad. Just make sure that the teeth get brushed really well, just not immediately after because of the acidity from the drink.


answers from Dallas on

Pop is sweetened, acidic, often caffeinated carbonated drink. There is "regular" pop that is sweetened with different kinds of sweeteners and "diet" pop that is sweetened with artificial sweeteners. 45 gallons of pop is consumed per person/per year by the average American. Even adults are just as prone to decay even though they have fairly good enamel and well-calcified enamel.

Double trouble for teeth. It's not just sugar that's bad for teeth, but the acids included in many popular drinks are said to "eat" away enamel and make teeth more prone to . The pH of regular and diet pops ranges from 2.47-3.35. The PH in our mouth is normally about 6.2 to 7.0 slightly more acidic than water.

At a PH of 5.2 to 5.5 or below the acid begins to dissolve the hard enamel of our teeth. Phosphoric and citric acids contribute to the acidity of pop. Below is a look at how some soda pops compare to water as well as to battery acid.

Regular pop is potentially cavity causing due to its high sugar content. Diet pops do not contribute to cavities. However, the acid in regular and diet pop has the potential to contribute to enamel breakdown and when combined with sugar can contribute to rampant decay!

Diet Soda Drinkers Beware!
Drinking carbonated soft drinks regularly can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel surfaces.
Soft drinks, which contain sticky sugars that break down into acids, adhere easily to tooth surfaces.

These acids can soften tooth substance and promote formation of plaque, which erodes the enamel.

Enamel breakdown leads to cavities.

If erosion spreads beneath the enamel into the dentin, pain and sensitivity may result

Which may result in root canal surgery.

Because saliva helps neutralize acids and wash your teeth clean, the worst time to drink soda pop, ironically, is when you are very thirsty or dehydrated due to low levels of saliva.

The larger the volume of intake, the more impact pop has on your teeth

Diet sodas are part of the problem. Women especially like to drink them throughout the day and between meals because they have no calories, yet the higher frequency and volume is putting their teeth at risk

Thank you for your question! The diet-vs-regular soda debate rages on,
but hopefully the info I've uncovered will help to shed some light.

As you implied, the debate mainly comes down to sugar vs. potential
side effects of artificial sweeteners. So what are the facts? Well, a
can of regular soda typically contains about ten teaspoons of sugar
and 150 calories, and excessive consumption is widely cited by experts
as contributing to childhood obesity. In addition, the high
concentration of sugar in regular soda is conducive to tooth decay. A
recent article in The Dallas Morning News lays it out in black and
white in a piece titled "Soft drinks a factor for fat youth"

"Today, the biggest single source of calories in the American diet is
fizzy soft drinks. The average teenage boy will get 15 teaspoons of
sugar a day just from these drinks, according to one report...Medical
researchers watching this trend say the growing fondness for sweetened
drinks may be one of the major forces behind children's rates of
obesity, diabetes and tooth decay."

An article on makes the following claims:

- "Consuming one 12-ounce (355-milliliter) sweetened soft drink per
day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60%."
- "Drinking too many sweetened caffeinated drinks could lead to dental
cavities (or caries) from the high sugar content and the erosion of
the enamel of the teeth from the acidity"
( "Caffeine and your child," )

Given such information, substitution of diet soda would seem a logical
choice. But what about the purported side effects of sugar substitutes
like aspartame, the artifical sweetener most commonly used in diet

Here's what Health Canada has to say on the subject:

"There is no evidence to suggest that the consumption of foods
containing [aspartame], according to the provisions of the Food and
Drug Regulations and as part of a well-balanced diet, would pose a
health hazard to consumers. In addition, other scientific advisory
bodies such as the Scientific Committee for Food of the European
Community, and the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of
the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health
Organization have reviewed all the available safety studies and have
found aspartame to be safe."

A concerned parent posed a question much like yours to pediatric
expert Dr. Alan Greene. It's reproduced on his website

"My son likes to drink soft drinks. I allow him one per day. I always
buy the caffeine-free variety, but I'm wondering what your opinion is
on artificial sweeteners and kids. Which is "less evil," artificial
sweeteners or sugar?"

Dr. Greene's answer: "The best research on NutraSweet (aspartame) has
not shown any conclusive problems. In the body, it breaks down into
two amino acids that are naturally a part of the diet. Sugar is loaded
with calories and it puts stress on the body's mechanisms for
regulating energy levels...If choosing between the two soda
possibilities, I would opt for the artificially sweetened soda."

Dr. Donald Hensrud of the Mayo Clinic had this to say in an August 2005 column

"There seems to be a lingering perception that nonnutritive sweeteners
are bad for you. But research hasn?t shown any significant health
concerns. In 1977, the FDA proposed a ban on saccharin because of a
suspected link to cancer in rats. It turned out that the research was
flawed. There?s no credible evidence that saccharin or other
nonnutritive sweeteners cause cancer."

He does, however, include the following precautions:

- "People with phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic metabolism
disorder, should avoid aspartame because of possible health risks."
- "Even though data shows nonnutritive sweeteners are safe, it may be
prudent to limit how often you give them to children. These sweeteners
have been part of our food supply for only a relatively short time.
Children are more susceptible to any potential effects, and research
hasn?t specifically focused on their effects on children."

The FDA Consumer magazine, in its May-June 2005 issue, simply
recommends chossing "diet soda, low-fat or fat-free milk, water,
flavored water, or 100 percent fruit juice" as alternatives to regular
soda (

So while the final choice is yours, it seems that given the
association between regular soda and tooth decay/obesity and the lack
of scientific evidence that artifical sweeteners are harmful, diet
soda may be a better option for your child provided it continues to be
consumed in moderation.

You may also wish to check out the following links:

"Do Artificial Sweeteners Present Health Risks?" on, a
website created by columnist Steven J. Milloy
< >

"Soda Consumption Puts Kids At Risk For Obesity, Diabetes,
Osteoporosis, And Cavities"
< >

"Sugar Substitute" on Wikipedia
< >

The following search strings were helpful in finding your answer:

regular versus diet soda
diet vs regular soda better

All the best!



answers from Denver on

No way. Never in a million years.


answers from Norfolk on

In my house, we've cut back on all soda to one a week. My husband likes diet soda from time to time, and I use to drink it in my 20's. I was starting to have some urinary tract / kidney problems and that all cleared up as soon as I cut out all the diet drinks. Ok, it might have helped that what I switched to was water. I can't remember where I heard it but I believe consuming lots of carbonated drinks (not just diet) are not good for bone development. Not only does it not provide calcium, but something about the carbonation can weaken your bones. Soda is a sugary, bubbly drink (often loaded with caffine) that has zero nutritional content. I would never give a diet drink to my son. For beverages he gets milk, juice, water, 1 carbonated soda per week (ginger ale or cola or root beer), and he likes tea (hot or cold) or hot chocolate sometimes and occasionally he'll take a sip of my coffee.



answers from Chicago on

I would never give my kids diet soda. I make a point to try to avoid anything with aspartme in it for my kids. Just keep soda as a treat, and only give regular, non caffeinated soda like sprite or orange soda.



answers from St. Louis on

I would definitely not give diet soda to children. If you're raising them to have a healthy self image and are only giving them soda as a treat then you should teach them anything is okay as long as it's in moderation. Let them enjoy the real deal.


answers from St. Louis on

I always drink diet soda. My husband always drinks regular. I'd rather my daughter (2.5) have a drink of the regular instead of diet.



answers from Minneapolis on

I noticed you did not actually ask for advice on whether your children should be drinking soda and I will honor that:

I agree with the poster who mentioned teaching moderation. Growing up, it wasn't so much that soda was prohibited. We just understood it was a treat. For example, at gramma's my sister and I could split a Pepsi. On the 4th of July we'd indulge in gradpe soda (ish). And as long as your kids drink soda in moderation, there is little need to pick diet - Stick with "regular" ( though maybe caffeine free sodas).

For the record, I hate soda and my kids have it maybe one/month. As they get older, I am sure they will indulge and I will have to hope their early experience wins out in adulthood.



answers from New York on

Diet soda is not better for kids. Soda is not good for kids at all, and if they are drinking enough of it to need diet, then you need to cut out the soda altogether. Soda isn't something your kids should be drinking daily, as a beverage at home. My kids are now 10 and 14 - they've always had soda only at parties, the movies, holidays, out to dinner. We dont' keep it in the home as a drink. I never permitted diet sodas. If soda is just an occasional treat, which you seem to indicate that it is, then all regular soda has that diet doesn't is sugar. Sugar is certainly better for them than artificial sweeteners.



answers from Phoenix on

My son is 1 1/2 so has not had soda yet (except once when I accidentally let him drink my sprite thinking it was his water- thankfully only a few sips). However he loves the thought of the bubbles, ice, and straw. So we opt to give him carbonated juice instead. We havea small water carbonator (SodaStream) that my husband uses to make himself soda. I buy 100% juice concentrate and we mix some with the carbonated water to make him "fizzy juice". He loves it, thinks he has had a super special treat, and we don't give him soda. He has also had Izze, which is carbonated juice (comes in cans and glass bottles)
I know once he is a little older, he will want soda. Wel will then opt for regular soda, but caffeine free, like Sprite or Root Beer. No diet because of the artificial sweeteners. I'd much rather give him sugar than the artificial stuff.

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