Kids love sugary soda drinks; but as parents, we know that between the sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, complete lack of nutrients and caffeine, that soda should remain a special occasion drink and not an everyday beverage.
When your kids are craving colas, what can you give them that they'll love just as much but without all the sugar and additives of soda? Believe it or not, you can make your own healthier sodas at home, using juice and every mom's best friend-club soda.
Juice + Carbonated Water = Healthy Drink Kids Love
When a child is craving soda, what they are really after is typically a sweet drink with some fun bubbles. You can make your own healthy sodas at home by applying this concept to your child's favorite juice flavors and adding in some club soda (carbonated water) to give it that fun, soda-bubble feel.
The trick here is getting the combination right. While 100% fruit juice does contain some of the nutrients and vitamins your kids need, they also contain a lot of sugar. To make your child's "healthy soda" actually healthy, stick to a combination of 1/3 juice and 2/3 club soda.
Whether your child enjoys grape juice, pineapple juice, apple juice, pomegranate juice or any of the other fruit juices widely available at your local grocery store, you've got the makings of a sweet and fizzy soda drink your kids will love.
You don't have to stick with fresh juice either. Frozen juice concentrates or even making your own fruit puree and then adding in the club soda will work just as well. You can also get creative and combine multiple fruit juices to make your own fruit punch fizzy drink!
Of course we would love it if our kids wanted to drink water all day, every day, but that never seems to be the case. You can, however, get your kids a little more excited about drinking water by adding some simple flavors that won't overload the drink with sugar.
Infusing a pitcher of water with a few lemon or cucumber slices and then letting the mixture chill for about 30 minutes adds a yummy touch of flavor to the water that doesn't sacrifice the health benefits.
Chocolate Soy Milk or Almond Milk
These delicious choices give your child the sweetness they crave and also have just about as much protein as cow milk, with less fat. Additionally, soy or almond milk are great choices for kids with allergies, who are lactose intolerant, or prone to upper respiratory infections.
Almond milk in particular is a fantastic choice for smoothies or other creamy drinks.
Soy Milk Shakes
Soy milk shakes contain a lot less fat and sugar than traditional, ice-cream filled milkshakes. Plus, you and your child can have some fun making these together.
(Recipe adapted from Cookiemag.com)
What you'll need:
2 cups silken tofu
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (stems removed)
1/2 cup plain soy milk
1/2 cup ice
2 tablespoons of honey
All you need to do is combine the ingredients in your blender, puree until smooth, and then serve.
Fruit smoothies are an easy and fun way of making sure your child gets their daily serving of fruit in a drink that's delicious enough to make them forget about soda. You can combine any type of fruit your child loves and even sneak in a sweet veggie like carrots, which the fruit flavors can mask.
We love this super simple recipe for flavor-packed Lemon Blueberry smoothies, adapted from kidscooking.about.com.
What you'll need:
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 cup low-fat vanilla soy milk
1 tablespoon of frozen sugar-free lemonade concentrate
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
To make this bright blue smoothie creation, combine the blueberries and pineapple chunks in your blender, then add the soy milk followed by the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.
If you are serving your fruit smoothie to small children, check your puree to ensure there aren't any fruit chunks large enough to pose a choking hazard prior to serving.
Drinks Your Kids Should Stay Away From
There are lots of drinks out there that promote themselves as healthy drinks for kids when that couldn't be farther from the truth. Even drinking large amounts of 100% fruit juice isn't great for kids since they contain a lot of sugar. Some of the biggest drink offenders include:
- Sports drinks - Contain tons of added sugar and sodium.
- Diet sodas - Artificial sweeteners like aspartame are not good for anyone, but they are especially bad for children. Remember that caffeine should also be avoided as it affects children a lot more than adults.
- Energy drinks - Do you really want your child to be more hyper than they already are?
- Flavored milk - Making your own chocolate milk is fine, but pre-flavored mixes typically have much higher amounts of sugar, fat and calories.
- Fruit drinks - These drinks don't actually include fruit, or any other health benefits.
By learning which drinks are healthy for kids, which should be consumed in moderation (basically everything except water), and which drinks to completely avoid giving to your little ones, you can start your child on the road to lifelong healthy eating.
Choosing delicious and healthy kids' drinks like the ones listed in this article are also great for adults, and setting a good example is the best way to teach healthy eating (and drinking) habits to your children.
So the next time your children start bugging you for a soda, why not create any of these delicious drink choices instead? Your kids will get the sweetness they are craving without all the additives and other junk they definitely don't need. Plus, with drinks this delicious, your children may start asking for your now-famous fruit sodas and smoothies instead of sodas or sports drinks.