Children Drinking One or More Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Per Day

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Learn More About Nutrition

Measures of Nutrition on
On, the following indicators are available for nutrition:
  • Percentage of children ages 2-17 drinking one or more sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages per day, by county. These data also are available by age group and by age group and race/ethnicity at the state level.
  • Percentage of children ages 2-17 who ate fast food two or more times in the past week, by age group.
  • Percentage of children ages 2-17 who eat five or more servings of fruits/vegetables daily, by age group.
  • Student reports of whether they ate breakfast that day. This indicator is available by grade level (7th, 9th, 11th and non-traditional students), gender and grade level, and race/ethnicity
"Non-Traditional" students are those enrolled in Community Day Schools or Continuation Education. According to EdSource, more than 10% of public school students in California are enrolled in these programs. 
Food Security
Physical Fitness
Why This Topic Is Important
Proper nutrition over the course of life can help prevent osteoporosis, dental problems, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure (1). Good nutrition also is associated with lower risk of developing cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Eating breakfast can promote proper nutrition. Children who eat breakfast are more likely to have a healthful diet and engage in physical activity, both of which help to maintain a healthy weight (2). In addition, eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved memory, mood, and school attendance in children and adolescents (1).

Consuming fast food and sugar-sweetened beverages, however, contributes to poor health (3). Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with health problems such as overweight and obesity, dental decay, and type 2 diabetes (4).

For more information on nutrition, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Nutrition facts. Retrieved from:

2.  Kids Health. (n.d.). Breakfast basics. Retrieved from:

3.  Babey, S. H., Wolstein, J., & Diamant, A. L. (2011). Food environments near home and school related to consumption of soda and fast food. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Retrieved from:

4.  Babey, S. H., Wolstein, J., & Goldstein, H. (2013). Still bubbling over: California adolescents drinking more soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Retrieved from:

How Children Are Faring
According to a 2011-12 California survey, more than half (53%) of children ages 2-11 ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, up from 48% in 2009. While the figure for youth ages 12-17 was substantially lower, at 26%, it also increased from 20% in 2009. The same 2011-12 survey found that about a third (37%) of children and teens ages 2-17 ate fast food two or more times in the past week, similar to previous years.

About 41% of California children and youth ages 2-17 drink sugary beverages on a daily basis, according to the 2011-12 survey, with county-level figures ranging from 21% to 60%. Among teens ages 12-17, two-thirds (65%) reported drinking one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day; parent reports for younger children were much lower, at 32% for ages 6-11 and 19% for ages 2-5. Compared to the previous survey time period of 2005-2007, reports of daily sugary drink consumption among teens increased significantly in 2011-12, but decreased for children ages 6-11 and 2-5. Among racial/ethnic groups, almost three quarters of African American and Latino teens reported daily consumption of sugary beverages in 2011-12 (74% and 73%, respectively), compared to 63% for Asian and multiracial youth and 56% for white teens.

In 2008-10, 66.7% of 7th graders, 59.9% of 9th graders, and 58.6% of 11th graders in California reported that they ate breakfast in the past day. Non-traditional students (i.e., those enrolled in Community Day Schools or Continuation Education) had the lowest percentages: 46.2% in 2008-10. From 2004-06 to 2008-10, the percentage of students reporting they ate breakfast rose for all racial/ethnic groups, as well as for all grade levels and for both boys and girls. However, disparities persist by gender and race/ethnicity.
Policy Implications

Lifetime dietary habits are established at a young age. School and community food and nutrition policies can encourage healthful choices, increasing the likelihood of long-term health (1, 2). Student food intake needs to include a balanced diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables. Their diet should minimizes the intake of sugary sodas and fast food, which contribute to poor health outcomes, including unhealthy weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay (3, 4, 5).

Poor dietary habits have been shown to substantially affect student achievement, making food choices a priority for school performance (4). Many California schools participate in the federal School Breakfast Program, which, like the National School Lunch Program, subsidizes meals that are provided at little or no cost to low-income students. Although many children do not eat a daily nutritious breakfast at home the School Breakfast Program is nevertheless severely underutilized, particularly in comparison to school lunch (1).

According to research and subject experts, policy-related actions that could improve children’s consumption of healthy food include:
  • Utilizing authority under state law and the federal child nutrition law to make it simpler and less stigmatizing for students to access free and reduced-price healthy food at school (including breakfast, lunch, and snacks); this includes “direct certification,” which allows school districts to automatically qualify children for free school meals if their families are on CalWORKs or food stamps (1, 2)
  • Increasing breakfast consumption at school and healthy nutritional intake at breakfast through implementing programs such as universal free school breakfast; mandating participation in the federal school breakfast program by more of the schools with the highest numbers of low-income children; and providing in-classroom breakfast (1, 3, 6, 7)
  • Increasing awareness among all school stakeholders — including parents, teachers, students, and administrators — about the links between healthy eating habits and healthy body weight, cognitive function, and school finances (4, 5, 6)
  • Examining the food supply and its relation to empty-calorie foods disproportionately consumed by adolescents, as there is an overlap between major sources of energy and empty calories (5, 8)
  • Supporting programs that introduce whole foods and healthy recipes, such as school gardens and trainings for child care providers on preventive health and nutrition (9, 10)
  • Addressing the lack of fresh and healthy foods in “food deserts,” often low-income inner cities without supermarkets or other easy access to affordable, nutritious whole foods (11)

For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see the Research & Links section on or visit Let’s Move, California Food Policy Advocates, the BreakfastFirst Campaign, and the Food Research & Action Center. Also see Policy Implications on under the topics Family Income & Poverty, and Free/Reduced Price School Meals.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Hewins, J., & Levin, M. (2013). School breakfast scorecard: School year 2011-12. Food Research and Action Center. Retrieved from:

2.  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2010). Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Retrieved from:

3. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2009). Improving child nutrition policy: Insights from National USDA Study of School Food Environments. Retrieved from:

4.  BreakfastFirst. (2010). The benefits of breakfast: Health and academics. California Food Policy Advocates.

5.  National Institute of Medicine. (2012) Accelerating progress in obesity prevention: Solving the weight of the nation. Retrieved from:  

6.  BreakfastFirst. (2010). The fiscal benefits of school breakfast. California Food Policy Advocates. Retrieved from:

7.  McCarthy, W., et al. (2008). The feasibility of mandating school breakfast in California’s severe need schools: Costs, challenges and recommendations. WestEd. Retrieved from:

8.  Reedy, J., & Krebs-Smith, S. (2010). Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(10), 1477-1484. Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Retrieved from:

9.  California Department of Education. (n.d.). School garden program overview. Retrieved from:

10.  California Food Policy Advocates. (2013). AB290 (Alejo): Foundations for healthy nutrition in child care. Retrieved from:

11.  USDA Economic Research Service. (2009). Access to affordable and nutritious food: Measuring and understanding food deserts and their consequences. Retrieved from:

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Nutrition