Exploring Healthier Drinks for Kids

Fruit juice may not be as good for your child as you think.

Credit: ginnerobot

Fruit juice, sports drinks and pop: the juicy facts on sweet drinks

Maia called from the kitchen to say she was getting herself some juice. I did a quick tally—one glass at breakfast, one glass at lunch—and realized my nine-year-old was pouring her third glass of juice for the day. After telling her to switch to water I reminded her and myself why one glass of juice a day should be the limit.


Like many parents, I limit sports drinks and pop for my child, but fruit juice seems to get a bit of a free pass. When Maia was younger I simply watered her juice down. But somewhere around the time she learned to say “no” she caught on to that trick.


My solution was to switch to an organic juice, or one that blended in veggies, but I was left with the nagging feeling I was still feeding my daughter empty (and expensive) calories.


A glass of juice a day won’t keep the doctor away

It turns out I was on the right track. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) recommends that children from two to 12 years old drink no more than 250 to 375 ml of juice a day. When you consider that a 250 ml glass of 100% juice comes loaded with up to 180 calories and 40 grams of sugar, and contains only a fraction of the nutrition found in fresh fruit, it’s easy to understand why too much juice isn’t good for our kids.


Fruit juice isn’t as innocent as you think. (Image: Flickr / NOGG3R5)


Sports drinks are in a whole different league than juice. Not only are they expensive, but these sugary, chemical-laden concoctions can encourage unhealthy dietary habits (who would guess that a day-go blue drink is bad for you) and are also over-utilized.


It turns out kids don’t need a sports drink every time they go for a bike ride or play a sport; they only need them to replace electrolytes after sustained exercise. A good guideline is to provide sports drinks when a child is engaged in an hour or more of vigorous activity, and then just make your own.


If sports drinks should be served infrequently, pop should appear in your child’s diet even less. Soda pop has no nutritional value and should be considered a treat, no different than candy. We can help our kids develop healthy dietary habits by discussing the subject. In our home we tell Maia why we’re limiting sweet drinks, and in restaurants we offer options—either dessert or pop, but not both.


Like most good eating habits, I realize that I need to take the lead by reducing my own intake of sugary drinks. We all need hydration, but water is always the best choice.


Healthy homemade drinks for your kids

Swap commercial beverages for homemade drinks this summer. (Image: Flickr / hepp)


Have your kids make these themselves and talk about why they are healthier options than some commercial drinks.


Homemade pop:
Mix one part of your favourite 100% fruit juice with three parts sparkling water for a refreshing (and nutritious) option. Add ice and a slice of fresh fruit for a special drink.


Homemade sports drink:
A basic one for children can be made by mixing one part 100% fruit juice with one part water and adding a pinch of salt.


Tips for cutting back on juice consumption:

• Gradually add more and more water to each serving of juice.
• Decide with your child when they will have their juice (school lunch is a popular time) and serve water the rest of the time.
• Provide your child with a water bottle each morning and remind her to refill it regularly.
• Offer fruit instead of juice. An orange will fill a child up and provide lots of fibre, while a glass of orange juice contains more calories than two oranges and can still leave a child unsatisfied.
• Go cold turkey. If you don’t have juice available, your child can’t drink it.