The row over Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban has ignited debate about how far government should go in encouraging healthier lifestyles. Whether or not you believe in direct intervention like the soda ban, one fact is hard to refute: Too much processed sugar is a contributor to the obesity epidemic, especially among children.

Even juice, which many parents offer as a supposedly healthy alternative to sodas, is not exactly consequence-free. Fruit juices are extremely high in sugar and low in other essential nutrients like fiber, when compared to whole fruit. Just one cup of orange juice, for example, contains 112 calories compared to the 62 calories in a single orange.

But juice and soda aren’t the only options out there. Below are some healthy alternatives to try with your kids.


Water is far and away the best choice for a kids’ drink. It can be consumed anytime and as often as needed. You can always add an orange or lemon slice to flavor it if your kids resist drinking enough of it, and my children seem to find ice cubes the most exciting treat in the world. 

A young girl drinks milkMilk or milk alternatives

Milk is another drink that can be offered every day. Kids need plenty of calcium and vitamin D. You should give your child whole milk (about 16 ounces a day) until the age of 2 and then cut back to 2% or less. Daily calcium requirements for toddlers (2-3) is 700 milligrams (mg) per day or 2-3 cups of milk; pre-school or younger kids (4-8) need 800 mg per day or 3 cups of milk, and older kids (9-18) need 1300 mg per day or 4 cups of milk. However, some kids are allergic to dairy, or just refuse to drink milk. Try soy, hemp or rice milks: Make sure to look for calcium-fortified alternative milks.

DIY flavored milk

Here is a great way to flavor milk for kids who do not love the taste. The strawberries are also a great source of vitamin C.

Strawberry Milk Recipe

1/2 cup strawberries

2 cups milk

Blend until berries are pureed

Coconut water

Coconut water is low in sugar and high in potassium, antioxidants and electrolytes. Make sure to avoid the sports recovery drinks that advertise coconut water. Either just buy plain coconut water or get it straight from the source. (Yes, coconut water is the water you find in the center of a coconut!)


Smoothies are fun and healthy. The great thing is that you can add a large variety of different fruits, veggies and even proteins. They can also be frozen in popsicle makers for a tasty treat. And unlike pure juice, smoothies retain much of the fiber that makes fruit and vegetable such an important part of a kid’s diet. One of my favorite recipes is for a kale smoothie, which children seem to go crazy for. 

Kale Smoothie Recipe

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 frozen banana

3-4 handfuls raw kale or spinach

1 cup almond milk

Blend until pureed.

Herbal teas

Herbal teas can taste great and many have medicinal qualities that help your kids. One of our favorite bedtime teas is chamomile. It calms the nerves and the GI tract. Try offering it warm with a teaspoon of honey. We also love iced nettle tea with lemon. Nettles are an amazing source of nutrients including iron, calcium, potassium and zinc. Nettles are helpful for childhood asthma, toning the entire body, and rehydrating.

Related on MNN:

Photo: Mircea Netval/Shutterstock