How to Choose the Best (and Avoid the Worst) Drinks for Your Kids


Contributor: Jennifer Willoughby, RD, CSP, LD

When your child is thirsty, how do you steer them toward a refreshing and hydrating choice that isn’t full of sugar?

With so many different beverage options, it’s difficult to know what is both kid-friendly and healthy. Here is a guide to help you find the best thirst quenchers to pour into your child’s cup.

Why water is best (and how to  jazz it up)

Water itself may sound like a boring and obvious choice, but its benefits can’t be rivaled. It offers only benefits, without any calories — restoring the fluids in your child’s body that are lost through metabolism, sweating and breathing.

Another benefit of water is that it has virtually no cost. Imagine how much you could save not buying individually packaged drinks that end up being nothing more than a sugar kick.

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.

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 your child just can’t go without it.

Say ‘yes’ to these kid-friendly drinks

While you’re working on getting your kids to enjoy drinking more water, here are some other acceptable hydration options:

Say ‘no’ to these (even 100 percent juice)

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, 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.