Is Flavored Water Healthy for Kids?

Young boy drinking bottle of flavored water outdoors
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Flavored water products contain ingredients to make them taste more exciting than plain water. That added flavor may be natural or artificial, and it may include other ingredients like sweeteners, vitamins, and even food coloring. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled drinking water, including flavored water.

Many people drink flavored water beverages as a healthier alternative to soft drinks and other highly sweetened beverages. But many parents wonder if flavored waters are good for kids.

This article explains what is in flavored water products and what experts say about whether or not kids should consume them.

Bottled Flavored Water

There is a wide variety of flavored water, including carbonated flavored water; water with natural fruit extracts; and water with added sweeteners, vitamins, or caffeine.

While flavored waters are generally a good choice for adults who want to use them in place of less healthy drink choices, there are some things parents should watch out for when considering introducing them to kids.

Sweeteners

Although the sugar content in most sweetened flavored water is not as high as is in fruit juice or a can of soda, if your child regularly drinks it in place of regular water, they may still be at increased risk for certain health problems, including cavities.

Additionally, some parents don't like that some flavored waters, like Propel, contain artificial sweeteners. The use of these sweeteners isn't commonly promoted on the label, so you have to review the list of ingredients, where you might find artificial sweeteners, like sucralose (brand name Splenda) or acesulfame potassium (brand names Sweet One and Sunett).

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls the consumption of added sugars—mainly in sugary drinks—a grave health threat to children. That's because it increases the risks of poor health outcomes, including childhood obesity, dental decay, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

It is wise to avoid flavored water with added sweeteners since most kids already exceed the daily recommendations for added sugars. In addition to the risk of too many sweets is the risk of kids learning to dislike the taste of plain water when they get used to having flavored water.

Lack of Fluoride

Another risk associated with flavored bottled water is that it often doesn't contain fluoride, as regular tap water does. So sweeteners and flavors aside, drinking bottled water may increase the risk of cavities in kids because it doesn't have this protective mineral.

Flavored Water Enhancers

In addition to regular flavored water, you can also find "water enhancers." These are concentrated flavor drops that you add to your water. With water enhancer products, you control how much flavor to add and can choose to use fluoridated tap water over bottled water, but there are still downsides to offering them to kids.

In addition to the concern that kids who regularly drink "enhanced" water will become accustomed to the flavor and forgo plain water, many water enhancers also contain added ingredients for energy, not just flavor.

These "energy enhancers" may contain high levels of vitamins and caffeine that are not safe for kids, so be sure to read product labels carefully. Liquid water enhancers sold as energy drinks include brands like MiO Energy, Blink Energy Water, and Crystal Light with caffeine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that they find no role for energy drinks for kids because the stimulants pose a potential health risk. Therefore, they advise against children and adolescents consuming them.

Flavored Water for Common Conditions

While experts generally advise against flavored water products for children, there may be a time and place for them. While flavored water does not offer any extra health benefits over regular water for kids, if flavored encourages your child to drink more water, offering the option when they need the hydration the most may be worthwhile.

When your child is constipated or dehydrated due to diarrhea or vomiting, flavored water may be a way to encourage them to stay hydrated, though rehydration products like Pedialyte may be more appropriate. For cases of moderate to severe dehydration, always contact a pediatrician for guidance. Be sure to read labels before offering your child a flavored water product.

Make Your Own Flavored Water

A great alternative to bottled flavored water and water enhancers is making your own flavored water with fresh ingredients at home. Making your own flavored water ensures that your kids still get fluoride from your tap water and that they don't ingest unnecessary additives and ingredients in store-bought flavored water.

Homemade flavored water can be a healthy treat and make for a fun activity to do together. Try these flavors to start:

  • Fresh berries, like strawberries or blueberries
  • Citrus fruit slices, like lemons, limes, and oranges
  • Sliced cucumber or grapes
  • Fresh herbs, like mint and basil

To make flavored water, fill a container with water and add some fresh ingredients. Allow the mixture to infuse in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

A Word From Verywell

If your child is asking for flavored water, you might consider offering it as an occasional treat or when you need to encourage them to drink more fluids, like when they are sick or constipated. That's because flavored waters may contain additional ingredients like sweeteners, which experts recommend reducing in kids' diets. Alternatively, you can make your own flavored water at home.

If you do choose to offer your child store-bought flavored water, don't forget to read labels, as some flavored waters—especially flavored water enhancers—contain caffeine and high amounts of vitamins that are not safe for kids.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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