It’s summer, and the kids have been running around outside all day. They’re hot, thirsty and tired. Time to grab a drink that will refresh, rehydrate and re-energize them.
We need to be careful, however, about the beverage choices marketed to young people. Energy drinks are an increasingly popular choice with kids. The 2012 Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey stated that nearly half of Grade 7 students in the province reported they had consumed energy drinks in the last year. That number increases to 71 percent when they reach Grade 12.
Energy drinks contain a lot of caffeine and sugar, and the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically warns “Energy drinks pose potential health risks because of the simulants they contain and should never be consumed by children or adolescents.” Health Canada recommends children not use them at all.
When kids need to quench their thirst, offer one of these six healthy alternatives.
Plain water is the healthiest way for kids to stay hydrated. Offering water as the first choice teaches kids to see low-flavour, no-sugar drinks as a great way to satisfy thirst. Model this healthy habit by serving water at every meal and making sure everyone has a water bottle to go.
Milk and milk alternatives
Doctors Nova Scotia’s Kids’ Run Club recommends plain milk as a great post-exercise drink. Milk has carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen that muscles use for energy and protein to help them recover. Milk alternatives like fortified soy beverages also offer protein, calcium and vitamin D. Enriched rice and almond beverages are low in protein but still provide calcium and vitamin D. Choose unsweetened varieties.
Not to be confused with coconut milk, this refreshing beverage is rich in electrolytes, especially magnesium and potassium. Again, avoid versions with added sugar.
This suggestion comes with a caution: Kids should drink only unsweetened 100 per cent fruit juice and in very small quantities (half a cup or so at most per day). But mixing real fruit juice with sparkling water or preparing homemade unsweetened fruit smoothies makes a good occasional treat. Adding chopped fresh or frozen fruit to water is a fun way to have “fruit” juice, too.
You might be surprised by this suggestion, but it’s great for dehydrated, sick or very active children. Bone broth has easy-to-digest protein and amino acids as well as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
DIY sports drink
Sports drinks may not have the caffeine found in energy drinks but they have way too much sugar to be an option for all but the most intensely physical athletes. Offer a do-it-yourself version instead: Mix a third of a cup of your child’s favourite fruit juice with two-thirds of a cup of water and add a pinch of salt. That little bit of sugar and salt goes a long way to help an active body absorb fluids.