Parents' beliefs about the healthfulness of sugary drink options: opportunities to address misperceptions

Public Health Nutr. 2016 Jan;19(1):46-54. doi: 10.1017/S1368980015000397. Epub 2015 Mar 11.


Objective: To assess potential misperceptions among parents regarding the healthfulness of sugary drinks for their children.

Design: Online survey of parents. Participants identified the categories and specific brands of sugary drinks they provided for their children. They also indicated their perceptions of sugary drink categories and brands as healthy options for children, perceived importance of on-package claims in purchase decisions and their concerns about common sugary drink ingredients.

Setting: Online market research panel.

Subjects: Parents (n 982) of 2- to 17-year-olds, 46 % non-white or Hispanic.

Results: Ninety-six per cent of parents provided on average 2·9 different categories of sugary drinks for their children in the past month. Flavoured waters, fruit drinks and sports drinks were rated as the healthiest sugary drink categories. Across all categories and brands, parents who purchased specific products rated them as significantly healthier than those who did not (P<0·05). Over half of parents reported concern about caffeine, sugar and artificial sweeteners in sugary drinks that their children consume and approximately one-third reported that on-package ingredient claims were important in their purchase decisions.

Conclusions: Nearly all parents provide sugary drinks for their children and many believe that some sugary drinks are healthy options for children, particularly flavoured waters, fruit drinks and sports drinks. Furthermore, many parents rely upon on-package claims in their purchase decisions. Given excessive consumption of added sugar by children in the home, there is a continuing need to address parents' misperceptions about the healthfulness of many sugary drink products.

Keywords: Children; Food beliefs; Parents; Sugary beverages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Beverages*
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Choice Behavior
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Food Labeling
  • Food Preferences
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners / administration & dosage
  • Nutritive Sweeteners / administration & dosage*
  • Parents*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Caffeine