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The Best Drinks for Kids

Updated on December 13, 2014

Tips for Healthy Hydration

Drinks for kids become an especially hot topic (or is it a cold topic?) in the summer months. But whether we're sweating under a hot August sun or drying out in an overheated room in December, hydration is key. In the colder months, especially, it's part of an overall strategy for fighting cold and flu viruses. 

Healthy kid beverages can be a challenge, because kids often crave sugary, additive-packed sweet drinks. The good news is that when we help them make smart drink choices early on, they're more likely to stick with healthy drink habits long term.  That's the idea, anyway ;)

I'm not fanatical about this. You'll find my kids happily sipping Sprite at a restaurant meal or birthday party. The key is that these are special occasions. By contrast, here's how we handle everyday slurping...

(image: ponx cc)

best drinks for kids water
best drinks for kids water

Water

Despite some concerns about water purity, water is still the healthiest drink on the planet. Sugar and calorie free, it helps kids maintain a healthy weight and won't harm their teeth. It hydrates effectively and is, at least in the developed world, the most affordable thing to drink. Kids should always have access to water.

If your kids don't like water, try introducing it slowly. The YMCA's Healthy Family Home initiative has suggested "Water Wednesdays" at dinner, as an easy intro. Just serve water every Wednesday night, in lieu of your typical drinks.

For very young children, the old "water down the juice" trick has served many a parent well. Start by adding just a splash of water to your wee one's juice, then gradually increase until the drink is half water (or more). Yeah, it sounds kind of gross, but before long they'll be ready to suck down plain old water, no questions asked.

(image: mconnors)

"But I don't liiiiiike water...."

Ever heard that whine? Gotta admit they have a point. Plain water can get kinda boring. Solution: Homemade fruit-infused water. So so easy with this budget-friendly, BPA-free infusion pitcher. And kids can make their own cool infusion combos with this recipe collection. Drinking healthy just got a lot more fun.

Prodyne Fruit Infusion Flavor Pitcher
Prodyne Fruit Infusion Flavor Pitcher

So so easy with this budget-friendly, BPA-free infusion pitcher.

We own this and put fresh or frozen fruit in the center infuser to liven up plain, filtered tap water. Big hit all around, and yes, we have increased our water intake.

 
Cool Waters: 50 Refreshing, Healthy Homemade Thirst-Quenchers (50 Series)
Cool Waters: 50 Refreshing, Healthy Homemade Thirst-Quenchers (50 Series)

Kids can make their own cool infusion combos with this recipe collection. Use these recipes to concoct uber-healthy bevvies for the whole family, even summer dinner guests. There's some sophisticated stuff here :)

 

Steal This Idea!

A friend of mine has this policy when eating out with her kids: If they choose to drink water instead of ordering soda or another pricey beverage, she pays them (later, at home) the cost of the drink they would have had. Isn't that smart?

~ At home soda maker - tool for healthier soda? ~

My kids, sigh, love soda. I don't allow a lot of it, but they do consume a few sodas a month, sometimes more, and what's irritating is how much they ask for it. After a stern talking-to from the pediatrician, who is really really anti-soda, I started looking into getting an at home soda maker for the family. It's a pretty cool contraption, turning plain tap water into soda for less than you'd pay at the grocery. My kids would have a blast with this, but the main advantage would be an ability to control how much flavoring (hence, how much sugar) goes into each bottle. We could even skip the flavor packets & instead use lemon or lime juice, etc. Everything in moderation?

water bottle

throwdown!

At some point we broke our addiction to single-use water bottles. They're pricey and eco-unfriendly. Reusable bottles are a much better deal and the least we can do for our poor, embattled planet. Just fill 'em with filtered tap water and off you go.

Plastic water bottles have come under scrutiny in recent years for their potential to leach a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) into water. BPA can mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt the endocrine system. Not something most of us would choose for our kids--or ourselves, for that matter.

What's the best water bottle? Our family has road-tested 4 kinds. Here's how they compare:

Sigg Aluminum Bottle

Sigg Design Water Bottle (0.6-Liters, Fruit Harvest)
Sigg Design Water Bottle (0.6-Liters, Fruit Harvest)

Pros:

Mad style! These bottles are like little works of art.

Cons:

Heavier than a plastic bottle. Empty, this is no biggie, but when filled with water, the weight takes a bit of getting used to.

Dishwasher safe, but tricky because of the narrow mouth. Company recommends hand-washing.

Aluminum is not something I want my kids ingesting. There's NO evidence this bottle leaches aluminum, and the manufacturer says it has a nontoxic inner liner. But the composition of the liner is undisclosed, so I've never felt 100 percent comfy with the Sigg, despite it's kick-butt style.

->->->->NEWSFLASH: Sigg recently admitted that prior to August 2008, its proprietary "water-based epoxy liner" contaned BPA :-( Find out how to exchange your old Sigg bottle for a new, BPA-free one here ... or skip Sigg in favor of a company that's more forthcoming on consumer safety<-<-<-<-

 

Kleen Kanteen Stainless Steel Bottle

Klean Kanteen 27 -Ounce Classic, Poly Sport Cap 2.0 Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Klean Kanteen 27 -Ounce Classic, Poly Sport Cap 2.0 Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Pros:

No concerns about leaching. Stainless steel doesn't require an inner lining to be safe to drink from.

Dishwasher safe.

Progressive company--strives for eco-friendly manufacturing, adheres to fair-labor standards, donates to green causes.

Cons:

The heaviest bottle of the 3 kinds discussed here. (But only slightly heavier than the Sigg.)

Sport top can get noisy when you slurp from it. Fine for the soccer field, but perhaps a bit distracting in class.

 

Nalgene Plastic Bottle

Nalgene ATB w/ Lid BPA-Free Bottle - 22oz Pink, 22oz
Nalgene ATB w/ Lid BPA-Free Bottle - 22oz Pink, 22oz

Pros:

Lighter weight than the metal bottles.

Dishwasher safe.

More affordable than the Sigg or Kleen Kanteen bottles--which is key if your kids tend to lose a bottle now and then.

Made in the USA, if that floats your boat.

Cons:

If dropped repeatedly, the "locking" feature on the lid will break, making it less leakproof. One of my kids had a classmate who used to knock his water bottle off the desk on purpose...sigh...but that's the only time this has really been an issue. Otherwise, the bottles are quite sturdy.

 

CamelBak Plastic Bottle

Camelbak Better 0.75L Bottle, Sky Blue
Camelbak Better 0.75L Bottle, Sky Blue

Our fave! The parts handle the dishwasher just fine & are durable. Range of color choices lets us "color code" for the 3 kids (and myself!). All-around hit.

 

Keep It Clean

Culligan FM-15A Faucet Mount Filter with Advanced Water Filtration, White Finish
Culligan FM-15A Faucet Mount Filter with Advanced Water Filtration, White Finish

We live in an old house in an older town with fairly old pipes. So filtering the tap water is a must. I shopped around for an affordable but reliable faucet filter and settled on this one. It's served us well.

 

~~~~Fiber supplements: Okay for kids?~~~~ - Doctors may recommend fiber drinks for some children

Kids who struggle with constipation benefit from lots of water every day, along with fresh fruits, vegetables & whole-grain foods. If constipation persists, ask the pediatrician about a fiber supplement like Citrucel. While my kids haven't needed it, it has helped me tremendously with abdominal discomfort due to IBS. Instead of psyllium, found in brands like Metamucil and irritating to some stomachs, Citrucel uses another plant fiber called methylcellulose. It must be mixed with at least 8 ounces of liquid, such as water or juice. The orange taste isn't bad once you get used to it. I've used both the powder and capsule varieties and fare much better with the powder. Check with your pediatrician first before starting this or any supplement, especially for children under age 6.

via flickr cc
via flickr cc | Source

Milk

Milk has fallen somewhat out of favor in recent years due to an increasing number of kids with milk allergies or sensitivities. For children without these issues, I personally feel lowfat or skim milk still has an important place in a healthy diet. Milk is more filling than other drinks and is rich with the protein and calcium growing kids need.

Partly through cutting out single-use water bottles, we started budgeting for organic milk several years ago. One of the kids, at age 7, developed a teen-style pimple, and when I asked the pediatrician about it, she said it could be the early traces of puberty. At 7?? I thought. And then I remembered a friend talking about how growth hormones given to cows can trigger early puberty in kids who consume milk. That was the moment I decided we needed to go organic. I can't prove a causal relationship, but my son is now 10 and hasn't had one of those pimples again since we switched.


"Organic Rx": Milk is Item #1

Pediatrician Alan Greene, M.D., hosts my favorite website on children's health and is a real evangelist for organic food and drink. He advises parents to start with milk, as they switch to organics:

"When parents start making organic choices they often intuitively start at the top of the food chain, with organic milk, if dairy is part of their family's diet. When moms understand that the food they eat and the medicines they take can go into their breast milk, they often make the connection that the medicines and foods given to dairy cows can affect their family's health. They prefer avoiding the routine use of antibiotics, artificial hormones, pesticides, and genetically modified feed. And with good reason. Some recent USDA monitoring data found synthetic pyrethroid pesticides in 27% of conventional milk samples, and in only one organic sample - and even that at a lower level."

Read more here.

What about the sugary Ovaltine I give the kids on weekends but feel sort of guilty about? Dr. Greene's take on that is reassuring:

"Parents are often reluctant to let their children drink too much chocolate (or otherwise flavored) milk, concerned that this will give their kids too much sugar or fat. Actually, a glass of flavored milk contains less sugar than many juices, fruit drinks, or sodas. Furthermore, a University of Vermont study published in the June 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association culled very interesting information from the from USDA's large Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals (CSFII). Children who drink flavored milk are more likely to meet the calcium requirements than their peers, and no more likely to have greater sugar or fat intake. Children age 1-3 need 500 mg of calcium per day, age 4-8 need 800 mg, and over 9 need 1300 mg. A glass of milk contains about 300 mg. A serving of yogurt contains about 400 mg. Previous data from the same researcher found that only those children who consumed milk or calcium-rich foods at lunchtime tended to get the calcium they needed each day."

Juice

Pure fruit juice with no sugar added is the best bet here. Avoid "juice drinks," which are sugar-sweetened and often contain little real juice. Even the natural fruit sugar in 100 percent fruit juice can add up in high doses, so limit this to 8 ounces a day, or 12 oz. for bigger kids and teens. (Bonus: This counts toward the 5 daily servings of fruit and veggies kids need.)

The only juice regularly stocked in our fridge is Tropicana low-acid orange juice. Fortified with vitamins A & C plus calcium, it seems to pack a bit more nutritional punch than other juices. And the low-acid formula is easier on the stomach.

What the Heck Is "Superfruit" Juice?

If you've never heard this term, I'm jealous, because it means you haven't been flooded with spammy emails about acai juice "AS SEEN ON OPRAH!" Ack.

"Superfruit" is a marketing term applied to fruits that combine high nutritional value and antioxidant properties with appealing taste. Blueberries, cranberries, red grapes, mango, and pomegranate all fit the bill, along with more obscure fruits like seabuckthorn and wolfberry. (Don't those sound like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?)

Not only are 100% superfruit juices often costlier than your garden-variety apple or orange juice, their flavors may be too strong for many kids, with the possible exception of Concord grape juice. If you want in on the superfruit action for your kiddos, my advice would be:

Use a bit to flavor their water.

Use fresh or frozen whole superfruits in smoothies (see below). Frozen blueberries and mango chunks are smoothie staples for us.

Serve fresh or frozen superfruits--rather than the juice--with meals or snacks, so kids get the fiber as well as the nutrients.

(image: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture via Wikimedia Commons ~ public domain)

Sports Drinks

Ah, those neon-hued, ubermarketed sports drinks. Kids love 'em--or at least mine do. This is an "only in moderation" option for our family, given the cost, the sugar content, and all the food coloring in the typical bottle of Gatorade or facsimile.

These beverages can be helpful for replacing electrolytes during and after vigorous athletic activity (see this article claiming they're even better for active kids than water--I'm not so sure, but it's an interesting read).

My guys enjoy Glaceau's Vitamin Water--not exactly a sports drink, but just as colorful and cleverly packaged--and this too falls in the "moderation" category for us. They like to mix a little of it with orange juice at snack time, which seems like a reasonable compromise. They don't end up getting enough of the Vitamin Water to overload unhealthily on vitamins.

If weight management is a concern, be sure to read the labels, as all these drinks may be more caloric than you think.

(image: Jeff Taylor via Wikimedia Commons)

Are Artificial Sweeteners Okay for Kids?

My gut instinct on this is "not really," and I found excellent backup in this writeup by nationally known pediatrician William Sears, M.D.

Once during Readers are Leaders week at school--a great program where the PTO brings in professionals from a wide range of fields to talk to the kids about how reading is important in their work--my son came out raving about a "really healthy" drink he'd just tried. When I asked what was healthy about it, my son said it had no calories. The classroom visitor that day had been a food company executive toting free samples of a new sports drink sweetened with Splenda. I wasn't nuts about the "no calorie = healthy" connection he made, partly because I think children should be discussing healthy choices rather than calories per se, but also because there's no science behind the safety of artificial sweeteners for kids.

I'd rather let them have a small amount of something higher calorie that's natural, like juice, than loads of no-calorie liquid chemicals. Just my 2 cents.

Smoothies

Smoothies have been a godsend for our family. Basically they let me get a healpin' helping of fruit and protein into the kids before they even leave for school. I cover the bottom of the blender with lowfat milk, add a banana per kid, throw in one serving of organic frozen fruit per kid, add 4-6 oz plain lowfat Greek yogurt per kid, add honey to taste (depends on how ripe/sweet the bananas are), and blend. This isn't a super low-sugar drink, but it's packed with nutrients and is filling, fast, and easy. And of course, very tasty.

One of our kids hates to eat in the morning, so a smoothie is pretty much his whole breakfast. I'm fine with that, because it packs enough nutritional punch to carry him through 'til lunch. A trick I've learned recently, but old-hat to many longtime smoothie makers, is to blend some avocado into the mixture. With 3 kids and whole pitcherful to make each morning, I can pretty much throw a whole avocado in. As long as I'm using red or blue fruit (e.g., berries), it doesn't affect the color too much, and it bumps up the drink's nutritional value with some healthy fat.

(image: Sigurdas via Wikimedia Commons)

The Smootherator -- best blender we've had!

KitchenAid KSB560OB 5 Speed Blender 56 Oz. Pitcher Onyx Black
KitchenAid KSB560OB 5 Speed Blender 56 Oz. Pitcher Onyx Black

After burning our way through 3 lesser blenders, we broke down and got this one. With fruit smoothies on the menu virtually every morning, it was a smart investment we should have made sooner. Live and learn.

 

Comments?

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It is hard in the summer when it is hard to discourage kids from drinking soft drinks.

    • profile image

      ConvenientCalendar 4 years ago

      Great lens!

    • profile image

      RajlakshmiHB 4 years ago

      wonderful lens

    • iamraincrystal profile image

      Rosyel Sawali 4 years ago from Manila Philippines

      Cool! I enjoyed your lens and learned a lot from it too! ^_^

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Looking for a nutrional as well as great tasting drink for your kids? Check out my NEXT products. Visit my facebook page nutritional energy. Contains all the vitamins and nurtrients your children are missing in their diet. Great orange flavor, my kids love it and they are very picky.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Water is the #1 item our kids drink but lately we've been doing a lot of organic juicing and they love it!

    • senditondown profile image

      Senditondown 5 years ago from US

      No longer a kid, but working outdoors everyday. My main drink is water and instead of soda or an electrolyte drink like Gatorade, I will add some orange juice to a bottle of water. It helps quite a bit.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 5 years ago from Canada

      Important subject; sharing it on my Facebook page, Culinary Favorites From A to Z.

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 5 years ago from Chicago area

      @Lareene: grandparents make a huge difference! enjoy those healthy, yummy drinks with your grandson :)

    • Lareene profile image

      Lareene 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I missed the boat for my kids but I'm all in for my grandson thanks a lot.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      great blob

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      great drinks

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i said that 2 many times huh

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 5 years ago from Chicago area

      @thesodakid: heh-heh! I think my kids would love 1-2 sodas a day too. They're with you. But as a grouchy old lady ;) I think that's too much. 1-2 a week would be a lot better, or even 1-2 a month. Talk to your parents about it, okay? Take care!

    • profile image

      thesodakid 5 years ago

      the 2 under me r from me but whatever

    • profile image

      thesodakid 5 years ago

      o yeah by the way those 2 under me i accidentally did 2 but whatever

    • profile image

      thesodakid 5 years ago

      im an 8 year old boy i thought this was supposed to be the BEST drinks for kids i would perfer sprite or sirrea mist ive got NO allergies and im not shuger crazy or whatever no offence whatever ur called .com but imean like maybe 1 or 2 servings of soda a day really if ur going against me i don't care make me be the bad guy make me be the villain i don't care WHAT u say but go ahead

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      im an 8 year old kid i thought this was supposed to be the BEST drinks for kids like my age like mabye sprite or sirrea mist no offence whatever ur called .com but ive got no allergies and im not shuger crazy and i perfer AT LEAST sprite or siaera mist or whatever its called

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      This is such an important issue. Kids think they are invincible, but there is scientific proof that they perform better in athletic competition when they are properly hydrated. It makes sense that it applies across the board.

    • jays23 lm profile image

      jays23 lm 6 years ago

      nice info you have on your lens! I'll be sure to remind my nieces that anything that was NOT mentioned in your lens are NOT healthy for them. They seem top think soft drinks are the same as juice!

    • profile image

      Grandad52 6 years ago

      Neat ideas especially the part about getting kids to drink water and paying them for it. I've not had a soft drink in 25 yrs. (Grandad) but on the other hand Grandma makes up for it. I will pass this idea along to grandkids as a way to earn some $$ instead of asking grandpa. HA

    • profile image

      RecipePublishing 6 years ago

      Thank you, I have kids.

    • profile image

      DomCasas 6 years ago

      Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me! I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.

      Kind Regards,

      oral chelation

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      My grandson loves to make his own smoothies. Any of these healthy Kid's drinks would go well with Crunchy Hawaiian Chicken Wrap, my latest lens, which is in the top 15 of the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge. Lensrolling your Best Drinks for Kids to it. Thanks.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 6 years ago

      I am passing through again, and see I told you this was blessed...but I forgot to hit the "magic blessing button", so am doing so now, my apologies, still a great lens, added to "Diet and Nutrition Squid Angel" lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      After having had a hip replacement, I make sure that my kids take their daily dose of milk at night. My hip surgery was a success, but I'm now worried about the possibilities of a DePuy Pinnacle Recall. It's the same type of implant that I used. Reports have shown that it may cause some serious health problems.

    • profile image

      joseph7384 6 years ago

      As I always say "the children are our future".

      Joseph

    • kateloving profile image

      Kate Loving Shenk 6 years ago from Lancaster PA

      These recommendations are good for all of us!! ****Blessed****

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 6 years ago from Chicago area

      @happynutritionist: I like the idea of seltzer + juice! Am about to hit the grocery story & will pick up some seltzer to try that out. Thanks for the idea and the blessing!

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 6 years ago

      Nice lens on an important topic for children..and all of us. I agree with much of it. I did dilute my children's juice when they were growing up with pure water. Also, since it was hard to resist soda sometimes, I compromised by combining seltzer and juice. We still drink it that way, and my daughter who is married still does as well. Blessed by a SquidAngel and added to http://squidoo.com/nutrition-angel

    • profile image

      WorldVisionary 6 years ago

      Lots of great information her about drinks for kids. Thanks for putting this all together in one place. Blessed by a Squid Angel

    • profile image

      arunmax 6 years ago

      Fresh fruit juices

      are an excellent way to intake of antioxidant. They plays an important role to improve once health and to prevent various diseases.you share a nice and informative lens with us.

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 7 years ago from Chicago area

      @anonymous: hmm, you don't think there'd be too much sugar in 3 glasses of fruit juice? not as much sugar in the veggie juice, but why not just eat the whole fruits & veg instead of so much juice? I bet you're right about natural juice vs. packaged, though-- probably healthier. thx for the input!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      the juices have diuretic properties, buffers, antioxidants, remineralizing and toning. In addition, the fruit has detoxifying qualities, prevents cancer, regulates the intestinal tract and prevent cardiovascular disease. In short, two or three glasses of good natural juice made from fruits or vegetables in season is an excellent source of health.

      health drink.

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 7 years ago

      Very impressive listing of the whys for the various drink choices. Lesson not just for parents, but for all of us, too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      World best fruit juice monavie

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 8 years ago from Chicago area

      [in reply to hlkljgk] Mmm, I love Knudsen. Used to use their pure cherry juice to make cherry ice cream with chocolate and nuts. Whoops--we're supposed to be talkin' HEALTHY. Great recommendation--thanks.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 8 years ago from Western Mass

      knudsen makes some pretty great & nutritious juices: http://www.knudsenjuices.com/products/simply_nutri... . syna, 3, loves the morning blend (and we usually do half juice and half water).

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

      Great idea for a lens. I think my Hawaiian punch is a great choice, too. It does have a tiny bit of gingerale but when we have it on special occasions I know we're having tons of real fruit juice...and thinking it is a treat! Blessed!

    • monarch13 profile image

      monarch13 8 years ago

      Great tips rolled to "Healthy Kids"!

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 8 years ago from Chicago area

      Thank you Heather and Holley!! Come by for smoothies anytime. I recommend the mango :)

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 8 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      You've done it again! Beautiful and creative lens about a great topic. I learn so much from reading your lenses! Not just the content, but the way you put them together. 5*

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 8 years ago

      Great info here! I love the smoothie recipe too. I also include soy milk in our diet as we have food allergy issues in the house. This is a "keeper"! 5*s Oh, I'll be by your house for breakfast, okay?