kidEveryone needs hydration and when it comes to kids, they often want to turn to juice and soda. But both of those drinks typically contain tons of artificial sugars and other stuff that isn’t good for their health.
This means parents have to try and find alternatives that the kids will be willing to drink, and that, of course, taste good.
There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of juice every now and then, such as with breakfast, and a soda as a treat at the movie theater or a party. But when it comes to day-to-day drinking, you don’t want your kids drinking the bad stuff, especially if they already get lots of sugary treats and dessert, too.
So what can you give them? Here are 10 much healthier alternatives to juice and soda.
The most obvious option, and the hands-down best one, is plain ol' water. Train your kids to drink water when they are thirsty, and that it is the best thing to quench that thirst. Get them a fun, movie-themed water bottle they can drink out of both at home and at school, camp, or other places.
Lead by example, drinking water at family meals as well, and by bringing your own water bottle along, too. The more kids get accustomed to drinking water and realizing its benefits, they more they will see it as the drink for when you’re thirsty and the other stuff as simply a treat.
Consider whole milk as an alternative that can also give kids much-needed relief from thirst, plus their daily servings of dairy and vitamin D, which is essential for developing bones and overall health.
Try to go organic and look for the best quality milk and ones with higher fat content, which is actually better for young, growing kids. If your child has an issue with dairy, or doesn’t like it, consider alternatives like rice, almond, or coconut milk that taste delicious and are far better options to sugary juices.
Kids will love not only drinking smoothies, but also helping you make them. Let them choose what ingredients they want to include, like bananas and cocoa powder, a berry mix, or mango strawberry. Then blend it all together using an appropriate machine or device and enjoy.
You can even sneak in some vegetables like a bit of spinach or kale, or some protein powder. There’s powdered peanut butter at many grocery stores that is designed specifically for use in smoothies. Maybe consider adding beets, which will add a bright red color kids will love and gives them another boost of essential nutrients.
The great thing about smoothies is that you can change up the flavors. Smoothies give kids a good serving of fruit, dairy, and maybe even vegetables, and they can make a quick and healthy on-the-go breakfast or late night snack.
Instead of buying boxes or cartons of juice with lots of sugar and other additives and preservatives, consider freshly squeezing your own juice. You can use a juicer (it’s worth investing in one, especially if you have a big family) or do it by hand. Squeeze some oranges, add some ice and water, maybe a tiny bit of quick-dissolving sugar or another healthy sweetening alternative, and have your child get used to the taste of fresh OJ in the morning.
Sure, this takes more effort, but the end result will be a child who doesn’t get used to super-sweet drinks and can appreciate the benefits of real fruit and all of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that come with it. With a dedicated juicer, you can also easily and quickly make combos like apples and carrots that kids will love, then use the leftovers to make into healthy morning muffins.
If kids find water too plain or boring, consider flavouring it with some fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, pineapples, watermelon, or something else that will add a bit of sweetness. Put it in the fridge overnight and let the fruit infuse the water. Then serve it to kids in a fancy glass so they feel like it's a treat.
If you want to make it extra special, garnish the glass with a piece of fruit around the rim and the kids will find it festive, fun, and forget they are drinking water. And if your kids seem to have an adventurous palette, consider more unique combinations like pineapple and mint.
Not every kid will like the taste, but try it and if yours does, coconut water is sweet and has sugar, but it’s all-natural sugar. Just make sure to check the label to ensure that you are getting a brand that doesn’t add anything else to the drink.
Some coconut water has little pieces of coconut that not every kid will like. Try the plain coconut water first to avoid them declaring they don’t like it and refusing to try any others. Coconut water is a great alternative to high-fructose juices, and has necessary nutrients and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C. Plus, it’s a great way to rehydrate after intense sports or activity thanks to electrolytes.
Make your own homemade iced tea by brewing healthy tea, then adding ice, and maybe even some fruit to it. Some kids might even like the taste of flavored brewed teas, such as peach, without adding any sugar.
Kids might even think it’s juice and drink it up like they would a sweeter juice with lots of added sugar. And you can add a bit of sugar if necessary. But at least this way, you can control the amount.
Just make sure to choose a tea that does not contain caffeine. You might want to consult your child’s pediatrician first to find out what the best tea option is if you’re considering this as an alternative.
There are devices you can use, like a SodaStream, to make your own healthy sodas at home if your kids seem stuck on drinking them. Or just buy plain carbonated water and add a sweetening agent of some kind, even fresh fruit or a tiny bit of fruit juice.
Your child can still enjoy the taste of juice, but it will be watered down enough that they aren’t gulping a big glass. And the carbonation will make it feel like soda.
If you want to get really fancy (or tricky, depending on how you look at it) buy your own bottles, and bottle it in batches so it looks more authentic.
Especially on a cold winter day, serve up some hot chocolate, but make it healthy. Use whole organic milk, almond milk, another dairy-like liquid, or just boiled water, and add some pure cacao, which is full of magnesium.
To sweeten it, consider some honey or a dash of sugar or alternative. Make it even more comforting with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
While kids can’t drink their fruits and vegetables in whole form, if you’re worried about your kids not getting enough hydration, serve them an extra helping of fruits and vegetables with a lot of water content.
Some good options include watermelon or cucumbers. Add the two together on your own snack skewers, or make fun plated creations, and the kids will love it.