Yesterday, my 11-year-old asked if he could buy a carbonated drink at school called The Switch. He said I’d approve of this drink. I took a look online, read about it for a few minutes, and decided I’d let him buy it as long as he brought me home a can so I could check it out. Each can costs $1.25 in the cafeteria.

He brought me home the black cherry flavor, and I’m about to pop the top and take a sip.

Not bad. It definitely tastes like a cherry soda. It’s very sweet and doesn’t have an unpleasant aftertaste. It tastes a bit like what I remember the original Capri Sun tasting like in the early '90s, when it was in a much larger pouch.

From what I can tell by the information on the website, The Switch is making a concentrated effort to target school cafeterias. The drink is sold in more than 3,000 schools already. It might be in your child’s school. I didn’t know it was in my son’s school until yesterday when he mentioned it to me.

The Switch’s tagline is “100% of what you want. 0% of what you don’t.” On the front of the can, it says it’s sparkling 100 percent juice with no added sugars and no preservatives. However, we’re all smart enough to know that you need to turn to the back of the can to know what’s what.

Here are the ingredients in The Switch.

Ingredients: 100 percent juice (filtered sparkling water sufficient to reconstitute juice concentrates, apple, grape, acerola* and cherry juice concentrates), natural flavors, ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
One 8.3-ounce can contains 120 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbs, and 29 grams of sugar.

Lets compare that to Stewart’s Black Cherry Wishniak Soda (data taken from Wegmans.com).

Ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, natural and artificial flavor, citric acid, sodium benzoate (a preservative), caramel color, Red 40, Blue 1.
One 8-ounce serving (I’m basing this off the information for a 12-ounce bottle) contains about 127 calories, 0 grams of fat, about 37 grams of sodium, about 31 grams of carbs, and 31 grams of sugar.

The ingredients in The Switch are far more acceptable to me as a parent than the ingredients in the Stewarts soda. When I see high fructose corn syrup, Red 40 and Blue 1 in a product, it’s not something I want my child to be drinking.

Does that mean I’ll let my son buy The Switch regularly? Let’s look at what I like and don’t like about the product.

What I like about The Switch

  • No added sugars. The sweetness comes from the concentrated fruit.
  • Very low sodium.
  • Packaged as a reasonable serving size. The can is 8.3 ounces, not 12 or 16 ounces like many sodas.
  • Taste isn’t bad, at least the flavor I tried. My son has tried the Kiwi Berry (which he says tastes like Red Bull) and the Fruit Punch. He liked them both.
  • High in vitamin C — 100 percent of the daily allowance.
  • No additional dyes, artificial or natural.
  • As much as we all wish it didn’t matter to our kids (but we know it does because we’ve been there), this drink is a much cooler option than a 100-percent fruit juice drink pouch, which it seems to be nutritionally equivalent to.
What I didn’t like about The Switch
  • While there are no added sugars, the sugar content (and the calorie content) is just about the same as a soda. This isn’t a drink that’s going to help keep the weight off of kids who are struggling with their weight. 
  • I’m skeptical about the “natural” flavors. Natural is not a word that is regulated by the FDA, so the lack of specific information about the flavors is a bit of a concern for me.
  • It's lacking in much real nutrition.
The bottom line

Will I continue to let my son buy The Switch at school? Yes, I will, occasionally. Just like I allow him to buy school lunch twice a month, I’ll allow him to buy these drinks once in a while. I send him with water in his lunch box usually, and I still want that to be his everyday lunch drink. But, in my day-to-day struggle with my junior high son about all the things that I don’t let him do/look at/eat/drink that “everyone else” is, this is one thing I think I can let him have. I’d rather him drink The Switch than a soda or a sports drink.

I also think that when it comes time for either of my sons’ birthday parties, I might consider buying this instead of the cans of soda that I’ve allowed at birthday parties. If the kids seem to think it’s a cool drink (and it looks like so far they do), it’s a better option. The Switch can be ordered from Amazon.

* Acerola is a fruit. I was unfamiliar with it, so I’m going to guess some of my readers are, too. Click on the link to read more about it. 

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