Before you slurp, think about what, if any, nutritional value your drink is giving you, writes Sarah Wiedersehn, AAP

The icy-cold slushie is hard to beat on a hot summer day. But before you stop off at the frozen-drink machines you pass on the way home from the school pick-up or for yourself, just remember these tempting treats have no nutritional value so you should think before you slurp.

A typical commercially-bought frozen drink contains carbonated water, sugar, food acids, flavours, preservatives and colours. A home-made slushie is a much better option, says  pediatric dietitian Hanan Saleh.

Saleh, who runs a consulting business called The Food Expert says a frozen cola or slushie is not the ideal drink to give your kids on a scorching day. The main problem: unnecessary calories. Many adults could do without the calories as well not to mention the risk of a health scare.

“They provide no nutrition, perhaps a little fluid, but it’s obviously preferable that they (children) would get that via water,” Saleh says. “And particularly with obesity being an issue, sugar is a big blame at the moment – it’s not necessarily fats anymore.”

A large frozen Fanta contains about 895 kilojoules, according to Saleh. A frozen Coke in the same size has 950 kilojoules. A Slurpee from the 7-Eleven contains roughly the same number of kilojoules, but it all depends on the size – small (350ml), medium (480ml), large (650ml), super (890ml) and mega (1182ml).

All the calories come from the sugar content. On average there are 53 grams to 60 grams of sugar in a large frozen Cola or Slurpee – that’s equivalent to 12 teaspoons of sugar.

Yes, that’s right, 12 teaspoons of sugar.

Sugar-free options are available, but they still contain artificial colourings and preservatives. The most common preservatives used in frozen drinks are sodium benzoate (211) and potassium benzoate (212). The commonly used colours are tartrazine (E102) and sunset yellow (E110).

Tartrazine, which is known to provoke asthma attacks, is banned in Norway, Austria and Finland. Some studies have shown that both sodium benzoate and tartrazine increase hyperactive behaviour in children.

Frozen soft-drinks can now be bought nearly everywhere. They are at 7-Elevens, McDonalds, Burger King and Donut King. Then there are the Frozone machines at Hoyts cinemas, and Frozen Coke machines at the check-outs of some K-Mart stores.

The machines are usually placed in clear view of children. That, combined with their bright colours and churning mechanism, maximises pester power. The machines are often located at places where parents are at their most vulnerable – and it doesn’t help that many are self-serve.

As with so many aspects of parenting, it’s important to hold the line – and come up with your own solution.

Saleh says making slushies at home from fruit-based drinks is a much healthier alternative.

“You’d still be getting your vitamins and minerals from the fruits that way, you’re making the child happy and at least you’re not feeling guilty for giving the wrong colourings,” Saleh says.

And luckily, there are lots of fresh fruits in season right now, so the possibilities for delicious home-made slushie recipes are endless or whip up a homemade smoothie to retain all the goodness.