Best and worst drinks for kids

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Published February 06, 2014

| The Daily Meal

Best and worst drinks for kids

Best and worst drinks for kids

What should kids really be drinking?

Worst Drinks: Sports Drinks

The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of children (and adults) don’t need Gatorade, Powerade, or anything similar: a piece of fruit and big glass of water would do better. Sugar will actually slow you down if you're running less than a 12 mile race, and eating a salty snack and drinking water will serve you better than drinking a sports drink after intense exercise, which the average second grade soccer game doesn’t count as, anyway. 

That Snicker’s bar worth of sugar in a 12 ounce Gatorade? Not doing any favors for Little League exercisers.

Best Drinks: Milk

Milk is, of course, the other classic drink for kids. Whole milk is a great alternative to my previous list of overly sweetened and overly colored drinks. I’d ignore the recommendations you were given ten years ago though, and avoid skim. 

Kids who drink skim and one percent milk are heavier than kids who drink two percent and whole milk. Add to this that skim milk is heavily processed and with no apparent health benefits, and whole milk seems to be a pretty clear answer. More and more, we’re seeing that it’s sugar and not fat that makes us fat; there’s no need to avoid whole milk.

Worst Drinks: Artificial Colors

Although the FDA still permits Red Dye No. 40 and other additives, a 2007 European study and a slew of anecdotal research linking food dyes to hyperactive behavior have many parents rethinking unnaturally colored foods and drinks. Evidence is still inconclusive, but it’s enough to give parents pause. Is it worth the risk? Combined with the fact that most foods using these dyes are overly processed and of dubious nutritional value anyway, probably not.

Best Drinks: Dairy-Free Milk Alternatives

What about almond milk?  Soy milk? Rice milk? Generally, the answer is that if the drink is all natural, low in naturally occurring sugars, and free of calorie-free sweeteners and added sugars, it should be just fine. Don’t hesitate to sub in water instead, though.

Worst Drinks: Bottled Juices

The problem is that when you eliminate the fiber and bulk from a piece of fruit, what you’re left with is vitamins, water, and a whole lot of sugar. In addition to training your children to drink their calories and encouraging a growing sweet tooth, you’re also serving them liquid sugar that is processed by the body in exactly the same way it would process the sugar in a soda. 

In a world facing an obesity epidemic, teaching your children’s taste buds that drinks should be sweet is setting them up for trouble. Juice is all natural, yes. But healthful? No.

Check out the full list of the best and worst drinks for kids.

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