Best and Worst Drinks For Kids

Best and Worst Drinks For Kids

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.

8 Health Risks of Childhood Obesity Every Parent Should Know

8 Health Risks of Childhood Obesity Every Parent Should Know

You already know the statistics: one-third of children in the U.S are overweight or obese and rates have more than tripled since the 1970’s.

Although we hear a lot about childhood obesity itself, what I think is often missing in the message is the why.

We talk a lot about eating right and exercise, which are of course, important to prevent childhood obesity, but what seems to be missing is a focus on the several long-term health consequences of childhood obesity.

Perhaps even more important is that many of the health risks of childhood obesity can affect kids both when they’re young and as adults.

Although many health conditions have physical symptoms and can be diagnosed, some are insidious and may not be detected until much later in life.

Here, read on for 8 health risks of childhood obesity—and why they matter. 

1. Type-2 diabetes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the immediate health risks of childhood obesity include higher than normal blood glucose levels (known as impaired glucose tolerance), insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells cannot use insulin effectively, and type-2 diabetes.

A condition previously only seen in adults, today, cases of type-2 diabetes in kids are on the rise.

According to an April 2017 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the rate of newly diagnosed cases of type-2 diabetes in children between ages 10 and 19 increased by 4.8 percent.

2. Cardiovascular and heart disease

Children who are obese have risk factors for cardiovascular disease including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and problems with blood glucose tolerance.

In fact, a 2007 study in the Journal of Pediatrics of 5-17-year-olds found that approximately 70 percent of kids have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and 39 percent had two or more.

What’s more, according to an October 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, children and teens with the most severe obesity also had worse cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

3. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a build up of extra fat in the liver cells not caused by drinking alcohol  has become an epidemic among adults in the U.S.

Yet in recent years, more children than ever are also being diagnosed. Studies show up 38 percent of obese children have NAFLD, a 2.7 fold increase since the 1980’s.

NAFLD is also the most common cause of liver disease in children.

Although it’s unclear of the causes, NAFLD is associated with insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes and high cholesterol, and obesity is a risk factor.

Since NAFLD rarely has any symptoms, it’s been dubbed a silent killer. If fat continues to accumulate, it can progress to non-alcoholic steatosis

(NASH), which causes inflammation and liver cell damage, cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure.

4. Asthma

Approximately 9 million children in the U.S. have asthma, a disease which causes the airways to become sore and swollen and causes symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and trouble breathing.

Experts say childhood obesity may play a role.

In fact, a December 2018 study in the journal Pediatrics suggests childhood obesity increases the risk for childhood asthma by 30 percent. Kids who were overweight also had a 17 percent increased risk for asthma.

Although the study doesn’t prove that obesity causes asthma, research suggests weight loss can improve or reverse it. A January 2019 systematic review in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society found obese children who lost weight may improve their asthma.

5. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

According to the National Sleep Foundation, between 1 and 10 percent of kids have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that causes symptoms like snoring, restless sleep, pauses in breathing and bedwetting.

Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart trouble, poor weight gain, learning problems and behavioral problems.

There are several risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea, and one is childhood obesity. Studies show up to 60 percent of kids who are obese also have sleep apnea.

The reason is that the tonsils become enlarged from fatty tissues in the upper airway, and fat deposits in the neck and chest encourage the airways to collapse during sleep, Lisa Shives, M.D., said in this article.

6. Joint problems

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, kids who are obese can have problems with the growth and health of their bones, joints and muscles.

Excess weight can damage the growth plates, and alter the length and shape of the bones when they’re fully grown. Being overweight also ups the risk for premature arthritis, broken bones and other serious conditions.

In fact, an October 2018 study out of the U.K. suggests that raising rates of obesity are leading more teens to develop Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE), a debilitating hip disease that requires surgery and can cause lifelong disability.

7. Mental Illness

In the U.S., mental illness is a serious issue for all kids, but kids with obesity in particular  are more likely to be at risk for emotional problems that last into adulthood.

In fact, a 2006 study in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care found obese teens were more likely to have anxiety, depression and low self-esteem than those who had a normal weight.

Of course, the stigma associated with being overweight, social discrimination and bullying all impact an overweight child’s self esteem and confidence.

8. Obesity into adulthood

There’s no question that kids who are obese are more likely to stay overweight into adulthood and face the same heath risks, but those risk factors are also likely to be more severe

Although there’s a clear link between obesity and cancer, research suggests that childhood obesity rates are also causing more young adults to get cancer.

According to a March 2018 study in the journal Obesity, certain types of cancer that were previously seen in adults over 50 such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and thyroid cancer, are now being diagnosed in younger adults (as young as 20), and childhood obesity rates may be to blame.

5 “Healthy” Kids’ Foods That Are Actually Desserts and Treats

5 “Healthy” Kids’ Foods That Are Actually Desserts and Treats

Go to any grocery store and you’ll find dozens of store shelves lined with so-called “healthy”  kids foods that you think are good choices for your family.

Maybe they have whole grains, are made with real fruit, are high in fiber, gluten-free and have no high-fructose corn syrup.

The healthwashing practices companies use are deceiving and can make you feel really good about buying their products for your kids.

After all, they’re not the potato chips, cookies and candy you already know to avoid.

Yet there are some foods that you’re probably feeding your kids every day, which although they may seem like good choices, are actually desserts and treats in disguise—and something kids should eat occasionally. Here are 5.

1. Dried fruit

My daughter loves to eat raisins and I used to be OK with her eating a handful with oatmeal or mixed with sunflower seeds since they’re a good source of fiber, iron (she was anemic), and calcium.

After a while however, I found that she was asking for them all the time and eating them like candy—and I can’t blame her.

Raisins, and other types of dried fruit, are really high in sugar. One small box of raisins has 25 grams of sugar—as much as a Hershey’s chocolate bar!

Dried fruit has more nutrition than candy of course, but it’s better to serve fresh, whole fruit whenever possible and reserve dried fruit as a treat.

2. Trail mix

Trail mix has traditionally be seen as a healthy food, but most types are packed with salty nuts, seeds, dried fruit (see #1), “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Trail mix is also high in calories: one ounce has 129 calories—it doesn’t sound like a lot, but because of its salty and sweet combination, it’s easy to keep snacking.

Nuts and seeds can be a healthy snack especially because they have the healthy fats kids need in their diets.

But if you want to serve trail mix, make your own because you get to control the ingredients and the portion size.

3. Cereal

Cereal is an easy option for breakfast especially when you’re rushed and running out the door in the morning—which if you’re like me, that’s every morning.

Yet most cereals are low in protein and fiber, filled with artificial ingredients and loaded with sugar.

In fact, a May 2014 study by the Environmental Working Group found kids who eat a bowl of cereal every day for a year get a whopping 10 pounds of sugar in their diets.

And I’m not only talking about the cereals that have bright, artificial colors, marshmallows and favorite characters on their boxes—so called “healthy cereals” aren’t always the best option either.

Cereal can be an OK breakfast option, but it’s probably best to serve it every once in a while, or as dessert.

Instead, serve eggs, oatmeal and even leftovers, which have the nutrition your kids need to stay focused until lunch.

 Need more ideas? Check out my blog post, 5 Tips For a Quick and Healthy Breakfast and How To Pick a Healthy Cereal For Your Kids.

4. Goldfish crackers

When I ask my kids what their classmates bring for snack time, most of them bring processed, packaged foods.

One of the most popular of course, are Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish crackers. Suffice to say, most parents have packed them in their kid’s lunch box or served them as after-school snacks—my daughter even gets them at church.

In fact, a 2018 survey found 2.63 million people ate 8 or more bags of Goldfish within the last 30 days!

Kids love the taste, but Pepperidge Farm also does a great job of marketing them as healthy. Some of their health claims include:

  • Baked with real cheese
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives.
  • Colors sourced from real plants.

 True, they have varieties made with whole grains and organic wheat, but Goldfish can’t compare to serving up fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

If you want to take a deep dive into why these snacks aren’t something you should be feeding your kid everyday, I encourage you to read Megan Telpner’s very comprehensive blog post, Why Golfish Crackers Don’t Belong in A Lunch Box.

5. Pre-made smoothies

Smoothies are often seen as the quintessential health food, especially because they’re made with good-for-you-ingredients like almond milk, yogurt, chia seeds, and fruit.

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.

Take Smoothie King’s Apple Kiwi Bunga, one of their kids’ blends, for example. It sounds really healthy—it has kale—but with apple juice and an “apple juice blend,” this smoothie weighs in at 30 grams of sugar.

Store bought yogurt smoothies aren’t the best option either.

Stonyfield Organics’ low-fat strawberry banana smoothie is made with organic strawberry juice from concentrate. And the second ingredient? Cane sugar.

With 15 grams of sugar per serving, it’s not the worst smoothie you could feed your kid, but it’s better as a treat.

10 High-Fiber Foods Kids Will Love

10 High-Fiber Foods Kids Will Love

Fiber is something all kids need in their diets but most aren’t getting enough from foods like fruits and vegetables and those with whole grains.

In fact, 9 in 10 kids don’t eat enough vegetables, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 39 percent don’t eat any whole grains.

If you’re trying to get your kids to eat more fiber-rich foods, the good news is that you don’t have to resort to gritty bran cereal, sneak vegetables into their meals or force them to drink a fiber supplement.

With plenty of opportunities to taste and explore new fiber-rich foods, kids can grow to accept—and even crave them.

These 10 picks are healthy, delicious and super-easy to incorporate into any meal or serve as snacks.

1. Apples

When you think of high-fiber foods, apples are usually the first to come to mind.

With more than 4 grams of fiber in one medium apple, they’re also a great source of vitamin C, and have quercetin, an antioxidant that may improve cognitive function, a March 2017 mice study in the journal Behavioral Brain Research suggests.

2. Chia seeds

With a whopping 10.6 grams of fiber in every ounce, chia seeds are a standout when it comes to fiber-rich foods for kids.

Chia seeds are also high in protein, a good source of calcium, and the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show support cardiovascular health, lower inflammation, prevent chronic disease, and support brain health.

A word of caution: due to the risk of an obstruction in the esophagus, avoid feeding chia seeds to little ones.

3. Raspberries

All types of berries are high in fiber, but with more than 6 grams of fiber in a 1/2 cup, raspberries are one of the best.

Raspberries are also loaded with antioxidants and rich in vitamins C, K, and magnesium, and they’re low glycemic so they won’t spike your kid’s blood sugar.

4. Avocado

Avocado is a superfood for kids, thanks to almost 2 grams of fiber in every ounce. 

Avocado also has 20 vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and lutein and zeaxanthin, or carotenoids, found in the eyes that can improve memory and processing speed, one study found.

5. Figs

Real figs (not the cookie kind!) are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids.

A 1/2 cup of raw figs contain nearly 3 grams of fiber while the same portion of dried figs have more than 9 grams.

Figs are also a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin K.

6. Popcorn

If you’re looking for a crunchy kids’ snack with some fiber, serve up some popcorn.

A cup of popcorn has more than 1 gram of fiber, which isn’t a ton but it’s much better than a bag of chips for example, and it’s a whole grain. Unlike refined carbohydrates, whole grain carbohydrates keep blood sugar steady and help stave off hunger.

7. Rolled oats

With 6 grams of filling fiber in a 1/2 cup, rolled oats are a good source of whole grains as well as iron, selenium and manganese.

When buying rolled oats or oatmeal, always read labels and compare brands because the amount of fiber can vary.

8. Almonds

With nearly 3 grams of fiber in one ounce, almonds are fiber-rich and filling.

Almonds are also a great source of protein and iron, and make for a quick and easy kids’ snack.

9. Sweet potatoes

With more than 3 grams of fiber in a 1/2 cup,  sweet potatoes are one of the best high-fiber foods to feed your kids.

Sweet potatoes are also loaded with antioxidants and lend themselves to almost any meal.

10. Beans

You can’t go wrong with beans, which are high in both fiber and protein, and an excellent source of folate, zinc, iron and magnesium. They’re also rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that fights inflammation.

Navy beans and small white beans are some of the highest in fiber—more than 9 grams in a 1/2 cup.

7 Nutrition Mistakes All Parents Make

7 Nutrition Mistakes All Parents Make

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

We all want our kids to eat healthy, but between food marketing, brands that tout health claims and some outdated advice from experts, deciding what to feed your kids and what to avoid can be challenging.

Although most of us are well intentioned and try our best to offer healthy foods, there are still some common nutrition mistakes all parents make that can affect kids’ health now, and well into the future. Here are 7.

Nutrition mistake #1: Serving only “breakfast foods” for breakfast

Let’s face it: if you have young kids, mornings are stressful.

I get it.

Most mornings, I’m up at 5am to pray, read a devotional and enjoy a cup of coffee—and quiet—before my kids get up.

Once they’re awake however, it’s always a mad rush to feed them breakfast, get them ready and on the bus.

Cereal and toast are definitely easy and quick options for breakfast, but serving the same ‘ol breakfast foods every day can be a missed opportunity to get nutrition into your kid’s diet. Not to mention—it can get boring.

If you think out of the [breakfast] box and offer new types of foods, kids can also become healthier, more adventurous eaters.

Since lunch and dinner may be the only time kids are offered vegetables, breakfast is another chance to get them into your kid’s diet. The more you offer vegetables, the more likely your kid will be to eat them.

It’s not necessary to re-invent the wheel every day, but try to change things up a few times a week. Add leftover veggies to scrambled eggs, make chia seed or pumpkin pudding the night before, pull together a bean burrito or serve baked tempeh instead of toast, for example. 

 

 

 

Nutrition mistake #2: Filling up on processed snacks

 

We must recognize that our kids are growing—physically, mentally and emotionally—and what we feed them should be real, whole foods packed with nutrition to fuel that growth.

Bags of crackers, chips, cookies and other snack foods are easy to throw in a lunch box or pack when you’re on the go.

But processed snacks are usually made with refined carbohydrates and are high in sugar, sodium and artificial ingredients. They also lack the protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals kids need.

Do your best to avoid processed foods and instead, stick to whole foods for snacks. For ideas, check out my blog post, Healthy Kids’ Snacks 101: When, What and How Much

 

 

 

Nutrition mistake #3: Thinking all yogurt is healthy

 

 

Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, which promotes satiety and can prevent weight gain. It’s also a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12 as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that boost kids’ gut health and strengthens their immune systems.

Yet many yogurts, those that are marketed to kids or otherwise, are also sneaky sources of sugar.

Yogurts with pretzels, candy and crushed cookies are obvious sources, but those that are blended with fruit can also be high in sugar.

Read labels carefully and stick to brands with less than 11 grams of sugar, according to nutritionist Joy Bauer.

Siggi’s is one of my favorites for kids. Or serve plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit for a hint of sweetness and fiber.

 

 

Nutrition mistake #4: Missing sneaky sources of sugar

 

 

You already know to limit foods that are obvious sources of sugar like candy, cookies and ice cream, but sugar is sneaky and can hide behind at least 61 different names like fruit juice, cane sugar, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.

Foods like dried fruit, canned fruit and fruit cups, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, ketchup, juice, sports drinks, granola, instant oatmeal and cereal can all be sneaky sources of sugar.

 

 

Nutrition mistake #5: Avoiding all types of fat

 

 

Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the U.S. and as a result, parents are consistently told to limit the amount of fat in their kids’ diets and serve low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat, for example.

Although experts say trans fats and some saturated fats should be avoided, foods with healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from whole foods like fish, avocado, nuts and seeds and olive oil are all essential to kids health.

 

 

Nutrition mistake #6: Labeling foods “good” or “bad”

 

 

Labeling foods “good” or “bad” can turn mealtime into a power struggle and make your kid want the poor choices even more.

Teaching kids about healthy eating includes teaching balance. So although there are healthier choices, it’s OK to indulge in sweets and junk food.

When food is off limits, it can also create the same unhealthy eating habits many adults struggle with down the line.

Instead, talk to your children about making healthy choices and why they matter. For example, choosing celery sticks with almond butter will give your kid the energy she needs for sports while a bag of crackers will cause her to crash.

 

 

Nutrition mistake #7: Cutting carbs

 

 

Low carb diets like keto are all the rage for people looking to lose weight, but cutting some carbohydrates from a kid’s diet is a nutrition mistake. Check out my blog post, Is Keto Safe For Kids?

Refined carbohydrates like those found in white breads, pastas and rice and processed foods should be limited because they break down into simple sugars easily, cause blood sugar levels to spike and don’t satiate hunger—which might be one of the reasons your kid is always hungry.

Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, provide kids with the energy they need and support their muscle growth and brain development. They also take longer to break down, which keeps blood sugar levels steady.

Complex carbs are also high in fiber which satisfy hunger and prevent constipation.

Offer a variety of foods with complex carbohydrates including vegetables like pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes, fruits like berries, apples and pears, beans and legumes and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa which are also high in B vitamins, magnesium and iron.