Is flavored water healthy?

Is flavored water healthy?

Have you jumped on the flavored water bandwagon? If you answered yes, you may find yourself wondering: is flavored water healthier than other drinks? The answer may surprise you. Dr. Anisha Shetty, an Advocate Children’s Medical Group pediatrician at Advocate Dreyer, says while there are some benefits, when it comes to kids, parents should be cautious and make sure they understand what’s in the bottle.

“While flavored waters may seem like more healthful drinks because they are called “water,” parents should keep in mind that soda is mainly water, too,” says Dr. Shetty. “How healthy a drink is depends on its ingredients. All flavored waters are sweetened with some type of sugar (high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, agave syrup) or with an artificial sweetener (sucralose, aspartame). Regardless of the name, these waters lack significant nutrition.”

But, you may say, what about the options with no calories? Some of today’s flavored water options do have zero calories; they are made with sucralose or aspartame in minimal amounts.

“Artificial sweeteners are safe, but many don’t want to consume them. The best way to flavor water without artificial sweeteners is with fruit. You will add calories, but given they are from pure fruit, they are healthy calories,” says Dr. Shetty.

Another factor: artificial colors.

“Parents should avoid drinks that contain added ingredients such as caffeine, vitamins or herbal ingredients, and in particular, be wary of excessive vitamin B6 because consuming too much can be dangerous,” Dr. Shetty cautions.

Parents should also consider sodium content.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under the age of 18 should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

Dr. Shetty says parents should not give their children beverages that contain high amounts of sodium, unless it is to replace lost sodium. Ideally, flavored water should be sodium free or contain less than 30 mg.

Given the mixed results, many parents might ask: is there any benefit to drinking flavored waters instead of a soda?

Dr. Shetty says yes. “The main benefit of flavored waters is fewer added calories from sugar. Someone may even lose weight by switching from a soda with 150 calories per 12 oz to a bottle of flavored water with 5 calories per 16 oz. Over time, fewer calories will result in weight loss. And if the water is sweetened with an artificial sweetener, it will contain fewer calories than a regular soda, but the same as a diet soda.”

Flavored waters may also help with weight management in children.

“When a child is used to drinking large amounts of fruit punch, juice and soda, changing to just plain water will be a big jump,” Dr. Shetty says. “Flavored waters are a step to the calorie-free side while providing the flavors and tastes that might satisfy their taste buds and not giving them nearly as many calories.”

If you really like the idea of flavored water, here are some other options to mix it up:

  • Would you be just as happy with dressed-up regular water? Add a slice of orange, lemon, lime or cucumber to your water for a boost of flavor.
  • Mix sparkling water with a splash of your favorite fruit juice.
  • Mix in just a bit of pomegranate or cranberry juice and lime in your unsweetened iced tea, or add cut-up peaches and fresh mint sprigs if you like it sweetened.
  • Better yet, Dr. Shetty recommends that children drink a glass of nonfat or 1 percent milk.

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range here. 

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  1. Mary Ann, I see you state: ‘All flavored waters are sweetened with some type of sugar’. I switched to flavored carbonated water years ago in order to get away from soda, and it contains no real or artificial sugar. I did hear something recently regarding concerns about carbonated water, but don’t remember the details- maybe something for you to consider writing about?

  2. Linda G. Dickinson December 10, 2017 at 2:04 am · Reply

    Thank you for your great reminder!

  3. stephanie plyler June 19, 2018 at 5:35 am · Reply

    My husband got splash water which was grape.He said how there be sugar in it when it was zero calories.

  4. It is sweetened, but not with real sugar. It has artificial sweetener in it. Some people try to stay away from fake sugar, but some people don’t mind. You’ll have to research and see what you prefer. My oldest daughter likes to slice fruit and put it in a pitcher of water overnight to flavor it. My youngest likes to add a few squirts of MIO fruit flavored (artificial sweetened) flavoring to her water.
    Example: Original Gatorade is flavored with sugar, and Gatorade Zero has no true sugar in it, but has artificial sweetener in it. Some artificial sweeteners can be better than others. Stevia is a natural sweetener, but some say it leaves an displeasing after taste.

  5. The name of the article is …..Is Flavored Water Healthy? ….and then used most of the article to talk specifically about how they affect children. I am wanting to know for adults. I don’t mind that you talk about kids….but maybe put that in the title since that is what you mainly talked about.

    • Its under a parenting thread Barbara. U probably clicked a link to the article. But this was made with kids in mind for parents to read.

    • Its under a parenting thread Barbara. U probably clicked a link to the article. But this was made with kids in mind for parents to read.

  6. What about options like Hint Water and flavored Smart Water? I see 0 across the board for sodium, sugar, and added ingredients.

  7. I don’t think this applies to Bubly or LaCroix

  8. Judith A Carlson August 1, 2022 at 1:01 pm · Reply

    I drink zero sugar, zero sugar substitute, 100% unsweetened seltzer flavored with real juice – no sodium, sugar, or other added ingredients. I just checked the cans of La Croix (orange) and Kroger brand (raspberry) to make sure that is what I’m drinking and I’m correct about the ingredients.

  9. I’m also curious about flavored tablets you add to water; I’ve seen them pop up on social media often, I think WaterDrop is one of them? And I want to say those are flavored with Stevia…

  10. What about Crystal Lite? I know there is an artificial sweetener in the packets, but can you count it as part of your water intake?

  11. I drink Hint water all the time, what about this drink?

  12. You drink water to ‘Hydrate’, that is the health benefit of it. Whether it contains sweeteners or not is pretty irrelevant. Either way there is no added sugar so it is infinitely better than any of the other sugary drinks out there!

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.