Longer days and warmer temperatures mean more time for outdoor sports, bike riding, and playing at the park.

Since kids are usually more active this time of year than during the winter, getting them to stay hydrated is much easier but what they drink is key.

Most drinks marketed to kids and young athletes are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors. Those so-called “healthy” kids made with ingredients like dairy and fruit? They’re no better.

So what should your kids drink to stay hydrated? Here, get a list of the best and worst drinks for kids.

Best Kid’s Drinks

Water

Water makes up 60 percent of a child’s body weight and is an essential nutrient, responsible for every function in the body.

Pure, simple H2O may not be their first choice, but it’s the best because it gives their bodies what they need and it quenches their thirst without any unnecessary calories, fat or sugar.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says water should be their main source of hydration.

Depending on their age, weight and sex, kids should get between 6 and 8 cups of water a day, although that can include drinking water and water from foods like fruits and vegetables.

If you have trouble getting your kids to drink enough water, here are 5 ways to encourage them.

Milk

My kids will drink cow’s milk from time to time, but overall, I’m not a fan of it.

Expert say drinking dairy isn’t necessary.

Although it’s been promoted as a food that builds strong bones, studies show consuming dairy doesn’t reduce the risk of hip fractures in men and women.

Consuming dairy has also been linked to increased risks for heart disease, cancer and death.

Besides, they get their calcium from other, better calcium-rich foods that aren’t dairy.

Still, if you decide to serve it to your kids, it does have some benefits. It’s a good source of protein, vitamins A, B6, B12, D (because it’s added), calcium, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, selenium and zinc.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids between 1 and 8-years old should get 2 cups a day of dairy or milk and kids 9 and older should get 3 cups.

Non-dairy milk alternatives

Almond milk, coconut milk and other non-dairy milk alternatives usually have less protein and calories than cow’s milk, but they can have as much, if not more, calcium and vitamin D.

Compare brands and read labels carefully. I like to steer clear of those that are high in sugar and instead choose those made without artificial ingredients and are non-GMO, like Califia Farms.

Worst Kids’ Drinks

 

 

 

Soda

It goes without saying that soda is hands down the worst drink for kids. Soda is high in sugar and artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors.

Soda and other sugary drinks are main contributors to the childhood obesity epidemic, and conditions like type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which are also on the rise in kids.

Despite the health risks, 63 percent of kids consume a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

If your kids won’t drink plain water, serving sparkling water with cucumbers or strawberries, for example, for some sweetness is an OK substitute. 

The more you can steer them away from the fizzy stuff and encourage them to drink water however, the better the chances that they’ll stick with the healthy habit throughout their lives.

 

 

Flavored milk

It blows my mind that chocolate milk is an acceptable drink for school lunch and

it’s one of the reasons I’m trying to change my kids’ school lunch program.

Flavored milk may have calcium and protein, but the sugar content is way too high: a 1/2 cup of low-fat chocolate milk has nearly 25 grams of sugar

as much as a chocolate bar!

 

 

Juice

Kids love to drink juice, and juice boxes are really convenient especially when you’re spending time outside, but juice is one of the worst drinks for kids.

Juice lacks fiber and is high in calories and concentrated sugars.

Drinking too much juice can lead to cavities, weight gain and diarrhea, in babies and toddlers.

Surprisingly the claim “fruit juice from concentrate” is actually added sugar and even if the label says “100 percent fruit juice,” it can still be made with fruit juice from concentrate.

Learn more about why juice isn’t healthy for kids and how homemade juicing can fit into a child’s diet.

 

Lemonade

It may be the quintessential summertime drink, but both store-bought and homemade lemonades are high in sugar.

Since lemons are acidic, letting your kids sip on lemonade all day can also cause erosion, which leads to cavities.

Save lemonade for an occasional treat or for weekend barbecues and make your own. Try this recipe for healthy homemade lemonade.

 

Ice tea

Ice tea sounds like a healthy and benign choice—tea is high in antioxidants, after all, but sweetened ice teas are high in sugar.

With unsweetened ice tea, you won’t get the sugar but some brands also have caffeine.

As an alternative, you can brew a non-caffeinated herbal tea at home. Keep in mind  however, that some herbal teas aren’t safe for kids so read labels and when in doubt, check with your pediatrician.

 

Fruit smoothies

Smoothies are often seen as a health food, yet take a look at most bottled or restaurant smoothies—yes, green smoothies too—and you’ll discover most are filled with sugar thanks to ingredients like fruit juice, honey, raw sugar and loads of fresh fruit.

Sure, fresh fruit has natural sugars, but sugar is sugar.

If your kids like smoothies, make your own at home. Combine 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit to keep the sugar low and pay attention to add-ins which can make a drink meant to quench your kid’s thirst, enough calories to be a meal.

 

Sports and energy drinks

Sports and energy drinks are heavily marketed to kids, particularly for those that play sports, but they’re a significant source of calories and sugar.

Energy drinks also contain caffeine, and other stimulants, which have been linked to harmful neurological and cardiovascular effects, according to the AAP.

The AAP says water is usually fine for kids playing sports but sports drinks can be helpful for young kids who are engaged in prolonged, vigorous sports. Energy drinks should be avoid altogether.

Author Details
Julie Revelant teaches parents how to raise children who are healthy, adventurous eaters. Through blog posts and videos, her goal is to shift the conversation from short-term, problem picky eating to lifelong, healthy eating and healthy futures.