How You Can Help Your Child Navigate Beverage Choices


Contributor: Jennifer Willoughby, RD, CSP, LD

Does the summer sun have you feeling extra thirsty? Me, too. When I’m thirsty, I want to choose something that’s refreshing and hydrating, but with so many different beverage options, it’s difficult to know what the healthiest selection is. Let’s navigate the sea of beverage choices that are available for you and your child.

Gold Medal Winner: Water

Water itself may sound like a boring and obvious choice, but its benefits are insurmountable.

Water restores the fluids in your body that are lost through metabolism, sweating and breathing.

One of water’s most important jobs is to cool the body. During the summer months, your body requires more replacement fluids and cooling methods than at other times throughout the year.

The cool thing is that your body could live off water alone (and food, of course), but no other beverages are really necessary to survive and thrive.

Another benefit of water is that it has virtually no cost. Imagine how much you could save not buying that daily high-end coffee drink or not stopping by the vending machine for your afternoon sugar kick.

I always encourage parents to continue to provide and promote water even if their child doesn’t care for it. It’s so important to the body that you just can’t go without it.

Try adding fruit and herbs, like lemon, berries and mint, to make infused water. Kids can choose which add-ins they want to use to flavor the water and make their own creations. While you’re working on getting your kids to enjoy drinking more water, here are some other acceptable hydration options:

What not to drink

Leave these out of the running:

Many people don’t realize how many calories are in these beverages. In addition, they are empty calories that provide no nutrients for your body. with 100 percent of the calories coming from sugar. So they’re not appropriate choices to hydrate your body or to promote a healthy body weight.

The skinny on sports drinks

Sports drinks or electrolyte-containing beverages can be incorporated into a healthy hydration plan if your child is exercising for more than 60 minutes. When kids are highly active and burning calories, these fluid replacement drinks are beneficial due to the added carbohydrates and electrolytes.

However, if physical activity is less than that time period, water is enough to hydrate and replace all fluid losses.

Sports drinks add to daily calorie and sugar intake in a large amount, just as any other sugar-sweetened beverage does. One bottle of a typical, 20-ounce sports drink contains approximately 34 grams of sugar – which is more than the sugar content of a full-size candy bar (around 27 grams).

Satisfying smoothies

Smoothies are a highly consumed beverage, particularly in the summer, and they are a great way to get in some fruit and veggie servings.

However, commercial smoothies, either pre-bottled or from your local smoothie shop, often contain added sugars from juices, frozen yogurts, honey or other additives. One medium smoothie contains about 60 grams of sugar, much of which is added sugar.

To create a healthier smoothie, try making one at home and use water or milk as your liquid in place of juice. You can always ask at the smoothie shop to swap out the juice and frozen yogurt for low-fat milk or unsweetened milk alternatives.

This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.