Summer is here, and the weather is heating up. Between parties, lazing by the pool, and other social events, sugary sweet beverages are at their peak. It’s harder in the summer to keep sweets and sugary drinks in check, I think. Keep the sweet drinks in their place, while still keeping good-tasting hydration front and center. I’ll show you how!
We all know that children should cut back on soda. Even lemonade, sweet tea, and juice drinks can be problematic if your child drinks more than 12 ounces a day.
Many parents drink diet soda and wonder if their kids should drink it too.
Soda and kids shouldn’t mix, except on a very occasional basis.
But what if children aren’t satisfied with plain water? What if this leads to your child being at risk for dehydration?
Homemade soda may be the answer you’re looking for.
Is Diet Soda Bad for Kids?
The FDA gives artificial sweeteners a stamp of approval, so it’s steeped in our food supply, including sugar-free drinks such as soda, lemonade, and iced tea.
In 2016, soda sales were at a 30-year low. Soda makers and marketers scrambled to convince the public that artificial sweeteners are safe.
And in 2020, sales of Coca-Cola Zero, a sugar free soda that tastes similar to the original coke, increased.
As a childhood nutrition expert, I recommend a very limited role for diet soda in a child’s diet. Diet soda is a good temporary fix to transition children from a regular soda drinking habit to a diet soda drinking habit.
The end goal, however, being a no diet soda drinking habit.
Diet soda is sugar free, so why isn’t it good for children?
- Kids are growing, and that process requires many nutrients (over 40!) from quality food. Soda offers sugar or artificial sugar, which doesn’t meet the nutrient and growth requirements of children.
An occasional soda is probably OK, but this is a decision for you to make.
- Diet soda is full of artificial sweeteners, which, although proven safe in adults and mice, has not been tested in children. We simply don’t know the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners on growing children.
- Many diet sodas are full of caffeine, and some rank higher than regular soda. Caffeine is not recommended for children, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stands against the use of caffeine in growing children.
Large doses of caffeine, such as those found in energy drinks, are dangerous for kids and teens. And, kids can drink too much caffeine from diet soda and soda, too.
Here’s a comparison.
Energy drink (12 oz) = 108 mg
Diet Soda (12 oz) = 43.2 mg
Soda (12 oz) = 22.5 mg
- Last, research shows the use of artificial sweeteners may trick the brain and tongue into thinking it has had something sweet and it may lead to sugar cravings.
Studies show that individuals don’t eat less after consuming artificial sweeteners, rather they tend to eat more!
This defeats the entire purpose, doesn’t it?
My advice for kids: keep it real, keep it nutritious, and keep it safe. Water is ideal, but sometimes kids want some carbonation and some flavor.
I’ve come up with some “homemade soda” ideas for the families I work with, to help them transition away from relying on soda and other sweetened beverages too much, and I’m sharing them with you.
Need more help with your child’s snacking? Check out this resource!
Homemade Soda for Kids
You will see a theme emerging as you read on–substitute your child’s favorite juice, bubbly or plain water, and/or fruit to create your own healthy version of soda.
1. Grape Soda
- 1-2 ounces of 100% Grape Juice
- 8-12 ounces of sparkling water (I used Pellegrino)
2. Cherry Soda
- 1-2 ounces of Cherry Juice
- 8-10 ounces sparkling water
- 5-6 whole, fresh cherries (optional)
3. Mandarin Orange Soda
- 1 baby mandarin orange, cut in half and juice squeezed into glass (or use canned mandarin oranges packed in their own juices)
- 8-12 ounces of sparkling water
4. Citrus Soda
- Orange, lemon, lime slices
- 8-12 ounces of seltzer water (I used Polar Seltzer)
5. Red Berry Soda
- Strawberries, sliced
- 8-12 ounces Lemon Seltzer water
I think you get the idea! Use bubbly water or plain–whatever suits your child’s taste buds.
These are simple, healthy alternatives to soda without the calorie, sugar, or caffeine impact. And, although they showcase juice, it’s in a small amount and within the current recommendations of a maximum of 4 oz juice daily.
If your child has a soda drinking habit, try these homemade sodas to transition to a soda-free diet and to make room for healthy food and drinks full of nutrients.
Try these homemade soda options or create your own combinations and see if your child likes them. And let the creativity blossom–kids go crazy with this idea, and it feeds right into their desire to create in the kitchen!
What other substitutes do you use for soda or sugar-sweetened beverages?
How do you stretch out the juice recommendations?