Better Beverages

This month’s article follows on nicely to the topics we’ve been exploring in the last few months.  December’s Sugar Sugar! newsletter highlighted the “sugar-overload” that many kids in our nation are getting, much of it delivered through sugary drinks.  In January, we discussed the new MyPlate recommendations from the USDA and how it differs from –my preferred– Harvard’s Healthy Plate (important take-away for this month: Harvard’s Healthy Plate has a glass of water at its side while the MyPlate has a glass of milk).  Last month, we explored the lunch scene across America and how we need to make some serious changes if we care about our children’s health.  We followed up on the experiment to see what would happen to a perfectly sound, white tooth over the course of just one week in a solution of cola and juice.  Yuk!  This month we will talk specifically about the beverage options for our kids and how we can make better choices.  We will look at the reasons why we need to stay hydrated and what are some great options.  Don’t miss the great recipes at our Hydration Station!

Why We Need to Drink

We need to drink so that we stay hydrated.  Dehydration causes headaches, hunger, upset stomach, crabbiness, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.  And these symptoms appear to “bother you” before anything REALLY serious happens!  Remember that our bodies are over 60% water.  Water regulates body temperature, helps transport nutrients to our cells, and protects our organs and tissues.  Water also removes waste by ridding our bodies of toxins.  Although actual survival statistics depend on conditions, a guideline you can take into consideration is that humans can live for about two weeks without food but only about two days without water.

How to Choose the Best Drink Option

Let’s start with what the choices are for many kids today:  Soda, sports drinks, juice, milk and water.  How do they compare?

Soda.  The worst.  Soda provides no nutritional value.   It is loaded with sugar and sometimes caffeine.  Last year, it was estimated that the average American consumed 592 cans of soda!  That is over 32 pounds of sugar per year.  Drinking that much soda can lead to tooth decay, poor health, weight gain, and an increased risk of developing diabetes.  Diet sodas, although they don’t contain sugar, provide no nutritional value and contain many artificial ingredients that can be very harmful to growing bodies and brains.  It is best to limit soda to a “sometimes” –or better yet, “never” beverage.
Sports/Energy Drink.  Second worst.   Are you surprised?  Many people think that sports drinks are healthy, but they contain a lot of sugar and artificial ingredients and dyes.   I’m going to be dedicating an entire newsletter to the dangers of artificial ingredients and dyes in next month’s newsletter, so stay tuned!   If your kids need to drink sports drinks (and that would be to replace electrolytes because they engage in a activity that involves sweating for an hour or more) then I would recommend Smart Water.  It has the electrolytes without all the artificial ingredients, sugars and dyes.  You can also offer your kids some water with fruit/veggies squeezed in it and maybe a pinch of salt if they’ve really had a sweat fest.  All fruits and veggies provide potassium– bananas are known as an especially good source.
  Fruit juice.   Now we are off the bad list, but juice only comes in as the “bronze medal winner” (3rd place) of what I’d call the “better beverages”.   100% juice contains vitamins and minerals, but it also contains a lot of natural sugar, so you should limit juice to one cup per day.  Be careful with juice look-alikes, some punches and juices are not 100% juice. Read the ingredient list and make sure that it is not a fruit or veggie “wanna be” (this is in reference to the section in February’s Eat a Rainbow newsletter).
Milk (no, I don’t mean chocolate milk) is our “silver medal” (2nd place) winner for better beverages.  Milk contains calcium and vitamin D, which help build strong bones and teeth.  Not everyone tolerates milk well, so kids should listen to their bodies and tummies and make sure that milk continues to agree with them.


So which beverage is our 1st place winner?

The gold medal goes to….Water!   It gives you long lasting energy, contains no sugar, dyes or artificial ingredients.   The best part about water is that is usually available everywhere, and it is free!

Hydration Station

Remember that water is your best option for staying hydrated.  Drink water!

What if your kids drink plenty of water, but occassionally they want something special to dazzle the taste buds?   OK, assuming that water is the primary beverage choice, I’m ready to share a few ideas for when you’d like to have something special:

The following three recipes are mostly water (our top choice for hydration)

Wuice”.  Wuice is just water with a little bit of juice from any fruit or veggie added. Some favorite versions in our house include water with cucumber slices, water with a squeeze of lime, and….our all-time favorite:  water with cubes of watermelon!
Robert’s Lemonade
Ginger Tea

The following three recipes are nutritious and fun but contain other sources of hydration besides water.  Have these to fuel up (and enjoy!) but don’t forget to get your water, too!

Berry Smoothie
Green Machine (this is a favorite to get kids to enjoy spinach!)
Hot Chocolate– a “sometimes” beverage given the sugar (I’ll admit that we served this recently at my son’s neighborhood birthday party, along with water)

We’d love to hear from you, so please post a comment!  Have a great month!

Back copies of Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange monthly newsletters are always available online.

Don’t forget to check out the recent posts on the Delicious and Nutritious, Green and Plenty and Wholesome Heart Blogs!

Delicious and Nutritious recipes are kid tested and range from breakfast to snacks.  We occassionally include a dessert as well –which we know is probably more delicous than it is nutrititiuos, but we feel that people need a sweet treat here and there.  We hope you are inspired by our ideas!

Green and Plenty: presents the latest in nutrition, delicious and seasonal recipes, green design and wellness tips for the reader and her family.

Wholesome Heart: includes delicious recipes, time-saving tips, and nutrition tidbits.


This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.


  1. Hello everyone. I just came across this interesting resource from NEW (Nutrition Education for Wellness) from the Cooperative Extention Service of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It has some interesting charts showing how you can change your daily caloric intake by adjusting your beverage choices. Check it out if you like!:

  2. kathryn says:

    Kathryn again with another beverage-related information piece. This set of guidelines comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is an excellent resource:

  3. Thank you to Bonnie and Steve Minsky of Nutritional Concepts for this great info:
    The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association recommend that all children drink low fat or skimmed milk after the age of 2 to reduce their saturated fat intake and ward off excess weight gain. But the evidence to back up this stance is somewhat mixed, say authors of a British Medical Journal study, who wanted to find out whether milk consumption patterns among 2 year olds affected weight gain.

    Researchers asked parents/primary caregivers of almost 11,000 children about their milk consumption — skimmed, 1% semi-skimmed, 2% milk fat, full fat, or soy — when the children were 2 years old and again when they were 4. At both time points, the prevalence of overweight/obesity was high, affecting around one in three of the children (30% of 2 year olds; 32% of 4 year olds).

    The prevalence of skimmed/semi-skimmed milk consumption was also higher among the overweight/obese kids, with 14% of heavy 2 year olds and 16% of heavy 4 year olds drinking it, compared with 9% of normal weight 2 year olds and 13% of normal weight 4 year olds.

    The average weight of children who drank 2%/full fat milk was also lower than that of kids who drank skimmed/semi-skimmed milk, even after accounting for other influential factors.

    This suggests that low fat milk confers no overall advantage. In fact, those who regularly drank skimmed/semi-skimmed milk who were not overweight or obese at the age of 2 were 57% more likely to become so by the age of 4.

    The authors state that rather than recommending low fat milk, it may be better to stick with other weight control options for which the evidence is sound, such as cutting down on TV watching and sugary drinks, and increasing exercise and fruit and vegetable intake.

  4. More from Bonnie (Nutritional Concepts): As more research trickles in about artificially sweetened beverages, one of the most damaging studies I have seen was published last week in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    Not only did artificially sweetened beverages increase the risk of type 2 diabetes at all levels of consumption, but subjects who drank the highest daily amount were at double the risk of those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages!

    Let’s repeat that. Diet soda drinkers were at DOUBLE the risk of type 2 diabetes than regular soda drinkers in the highest daily consumption category.

    I would like to note that both artificially sweetened and sweetened beverages increased the risk of type 2 diabetes at ALL consumption levels. The well structured study followed 66,000 women over 18 years.

    While this finding may seem stunning, if you understand how the body handles artificial sweeteners, it should not come as a surprise. Simply, the more chemicals you ingest, the more your diabetes risk increases. Your fat cells proliferate in order to house the chemicals as a protective mechanism. Extra fat cells add weight and lead to insulin resistance.

    More than anything, I feel for those who were led to believe that these beverages were the answer to avoiding diabetes and have been consuming them for much of their lives. Not all is lost for them, however. There are myriad chemical-free options for managing blood sugar diseases.

  5. Two recent studies of men and women, published in British Journal of Nutrition and Journal Nutrition, found that mild dehydration measurably impacts more than physiology. It alters mood.

    Mild dehydration is defined as a mere 1.5 percent loss normal water volume in the body. That’s not much. In a typical male weighing 150 lbs., for example, that’s a little over 20 ounces. It’s estimated that in a temperate climate, the average person on the average day must replace 2.5 liters of water lost through normal respiration, perspiration, urination, and other bodily functions.

    The psychological effect of mild dehydration appears to be different according to gender. In men, mild dehydration caused difficulty in memory and alertness. Women suffered more from significant fatigue, tension, and anxiety. The mood changes occurred regardless of whether the subjects were exercising or resting.

  6. kathryn guylay says:

    Great news from the national movement!
    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama will join the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and actress Eva Longoria in Watertown, Wisconsin to announce PHA’s new effort – Drink Up – to encourage everyone to drink more water, an easy choice to improve health and well-being every day. The effort brings together more than a dozen organizations committed to encouraging everyone to drink more water more often.
    According to the CDC, approximately one fourth of children do not drink any water on a given day. This new effort will remind people that drinking more water helps you have more energy to do more, longer and with better focus.
    To learn more about Drink Up, visit Check out Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to catch all the action on the First Lady’s trip to Watertown today! Join the effort and share a photo of yourself drinking water using hashtag #DrinkH2O.

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