Children should be encouraged to ditch the fizz and drink water instead as part of a campaign to tackle childhood obesity.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said children should reach for a drink of tap water as their “default option” rather than a can of fizzy pop or squash, with a high sugar content.
The LGA wants water to be more freely available in schools, nurseries and children’s centres to encourage children to drink it more.
It is calling on the government to make hydration in schools part of its child obesity strategy.
Simply swapping a sugary drink for water could “make a big difference” in tackling obesity, tooth decay and diabetes and help improve children’s concentration in class, said the LGA’s community wellbeing spokeswoman councilor Izzi Seccombe.
Replacing sugary drinks with water could trim 235 calories a day from children’s diets and cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the LGA said.
Children are getting less than a quarter of their recommended daily intake from water, according to the National Hydration Council, and many of them are underhydrated when they turn up to school, making it harder for them to concentrate.
Researchers found that just 6.1% of school children drank water in the morning, compared with nearly a quarter at lunchtime.
Fifty per cent of the 80 schoolchildren at two schools and colleges in Blackpool who were asked by the council to swap fizzy drinks for water or milk for 21 days last autumn said they planned to carry on.
The initiative was based on the Give Up Loving Pop (GULP) scheme to help them break the habit.
Seccombe said it was “far too easy for children to choose a soft drink in preference to water.
“The healthy option should be the default option. We want to make it just as easy for children to choose water as it is to choose a soft drink that is piled high in sugar.”