kids drinks

Review Health, Hydration and Happiness – Can Kids Drinks Have It All?

“I’m thirsty!”

When you’re away from the house, it’s one of those things that you just don’t want to hear. This is very similar to,

“I need the toilet.”

But at least with that one you pretty much know what to do when you get there. However, when you find a place to buy them a drink, just what is the best thing to buy?

Your child needs to be hydrated, sure, and you know water is best but they think water is dull and won’t drink a lot of it if you give it to them (I tend to agree with them here). So what are the alternatives, if we assume that fizzy drinks are an occasional treat and not a viable alternative?

Can kids have a drink that’s healthy and keeps both them and their parents happy?

We’re going to test two types of drinks to find out. In one corner, we have the fruit juices, and in the other we have the flavoured waters.

The Testers

I’m going to be helped on this task by my two sons, Tom (8) and Harvey (5). Here are our qualifications.

Daddy

My parenting view is everything in moderation. I let them try everything but will limit the things that I know are bad and give them as occasional treats.

At home we almost exclusively have ‘no added sugar’ cordials. I believe water is dull, cordials liven it up and I have recently found that the NHS actually supports this view too!

I am also a Diet Coke addict but I don’t drink tea, coffee or any hot drinks (nor does the rest of the family), which I guess is the only thing that makes us a little odd?

Tom (8)

Thomas is a food and drink nut. He will try anything. He is around 85% vegetarian and loves to eat healthily and to know where his food has come from.

When it comes to drink he is less healthy. He loves full-fat sugary soft drinks, especially gaudily coloured fruity fizzy ones and will always choose these if we’re out and about.

Harvey (5)

Harvey likes his food but is less obsessed by it than Tom. He drinks cordial at home but is much more likely to drink (and ask for) water than Tom.

In restaurants he will generally choose lemonade but if we are out and about he will almost always choose water or fruit flavoured water. Mainly because the 500ml bottles of lemonade are too difficult for him to drink, but also because he enjoys a more subtle flavour.

Waters

Glaceau Vitamin Water (sunshine zero) 500ml

Price per 150ml – £0.44

Tom: Don’t like the bottle, prefer the ones with the rounded bit at the top, like Fanta. They’re much easier to hold.
Harvey: I like it, tastes nice and orangey.
Tom: It tastes quite nice, not really nice, it’s definitely watery.

I would say that the initial appearance is quite strange. It looks like a bottle of medicine rather than a soft drink and is definitely designed to appeal more to parents than it does to children. It’s certainly going for the “this is good for you” vibe rather than “this is fun”.

The list of vitamins is impressive, as is the zero fat and sugar content. The ingredients list is a little baffling. Apart from ‘spring water’ everything else you would assume comes from a chemistry lab, rather than somewhere natural.

It tastes very chemically to me, not that pleasant and it also leaves a bit of a dry mouth. I would rate this as just OK. I wouldn’t buy this for the kids, I don’t think they’d enjoy much more than a taste.

The bottle is large and impractical to hold for a child.

Get More Still B Vitamins (apple and raspberry) 500ml

Price per 150ml – £0.30

Harvey: Mmmm, that’s lovely, really tastes like strawberry, I love it.
Tom: That’s got so much more taste, I love it, much better than the vitamin water one.
Harvey: I like it that it’s clear.
Tom: I like the bottle, I like that it goes in the middle and is easier to hold. I like that it has a little window on the front.
Harvey: I like the bottle too.

Compared to the vitamin water this was a bit of a taste sensation, with a very strong flavour and not that unpleasant. It is, however, a little greasy and has a very similar taste and feel to taking Diaralyte, which I’m sure wasn’t a goal of the manufacturers.

The zero fat and sugar content is admirable given the strong taste, but it does leave you wondering how the taste is achieved. Looking at the ingredients list it doesn’t give you many clues. I’m not that impressed by the B vitamin claims, as B vitamins are easily obtained from our everyday diet.

If it was available I would buy this for the kids. They like the taste and it’s sugar free, simple as that.

The bottle is still large but ergonomically a much better design for small hands.

Pip Organic Spring Water Quencher (pomegranate and raspberry) – 330ml

Price per 150ml – £0.81

Tom: I like it, but they need to seriously up the taste level.
Harvey: Nope, I can’t taste anything at all.

I was surprised at the kids’ reaction to this one. Harvey didn’t even drink it all and he usually loves a subtle taste.

Personally I found it very refreshing, I liked the taste and didn’t feel it was subtle in any way at all. The thing I didn’t like about this one was that you could really feel the sugars on your teeth, naturally occurring or not, that can’t be good in large doses.

This does contain 55% spring water but I would say it’s more of a fruit juice. I would buy it again but after the kids’ reaction, it would probably be for myself.

The size of the bottle is just the right amount for kids, and easy to hold.

Sobe V Water Shield (lemon and lime)

Price per 150ml – £0.44

Tom: I’d say this is a middle one. I thought it was going to be sweeter and much more lemony.
Harvey: It’s good, I love it!
Tom: It’s OK, I just wish there was more taste.

I would tend to agree with Tom, the taste is very subtle, perhaps too subtle. There is literally nothing in this which would make you want to go back for a second sip.

As with most of these flavoured waters it’s fat and sugar free but contains a list of ingredients that if they were laid out before you, you wouldn’t be keen to feed them to your child. No doubt they are probably harmless but I have absolutely no idea what they are.

“Hey kids, who wants some steviol glycosides?!”

Great that it’s in a bottle, but the shape is a little chunky for small hands.

Fruit Juices

Cawston Press Kids Blend (apple and mango) 3 x 200ml

Price per 150ml – £0.38

Tom: Really fruity, lots of my favourite taste, mango.
Harvey: Very good, I love the taste of apples. Really nice.
Tom: It would be very refreshing after I exercise I think.

 

I quite like this one, it has less flavour than a 100% fruit juice as it is fruit juice mixed with water. Still, it retains its fruity taste and I would be a lot happier for them to drink it in larger quantities than a pure fruit juice.

However it happens to be served in an impractical carton so that does make me less likely to buy it!

Robinsons Fruit Shoot (orange) 4 x 200ml

Price per 150ml – £0.28

Tom: It’s quite orangey, not very, but quite. The bottle is really good but I wish that I could get more out in one go. Might not be that good if you were really thirsty.
Harvey: I think it’s orange, it’s not very nice. I like the bottle too but I don’t like drinking it. I don’t want any more.
Tom: No, me neither.

In the kids’ younger years these were the go-to soft drinks for me and plenty of other parents. I think it was a while before I actually tasted one and was shocked as to just how chemically and unfruity they taste!

Still, I carried on buying them as the bottles are so practical! What’s inside though is not juice! An orange juice content of just 8% (from concentrate) confirms this.

Pip Cloudy Apple Juice 4 x 180ml

Price per 150ml – £0.75

Tom: Very good, best quality it can be! Love it and would have it again, I like sweet and sour. Would prefer it to be in a bottle though.
Harvey: I don’t know, I think it’s a bit good, like melon. Don’t want it again though as it’s too sweet.

The first taste is lovely, but is followed by a weird dry aftertaste which isn’t that pleasant. It’s supposedly made with 100% apples which makes the aftertaste hard to explain. It also recommends it to be served cool but doesn’t tell you to store it in the fridge, which is a little weird if it’s completely fresh?

This drink contains a huge 17.82g of natural sugar, a similar portion of full fat Coca Cola would have 19.08g of refined sugar. This does concern me as a parent.

Besides the fact that cartons are a ridiculously impractical choice for kids all round, not having a flat top also means that they can’t get the straw in themselves.

Innocent Juice (tropical) 4 x 180ml

Price per 150ml – £0.58

Tom: Nice, really good flavour but could do with a little bit more of the same taste.
Harvey: Nice, I like the flavour but a bit too sweet.
Tom: We need to get this one again.

The fact that both of them finished in a flash showed a lot. They both really liked the flavour though Harvey wouldn’t choose this as he doesn’t like anything too sweet.

I found the flavour to be fantastic, surprisingly subtle for a 100% juice drink. There was no sugary aftertaste either. We’ve bought Innocent products in the past and always found them to be fantastic quality.

With regard to the carton, the same as above. Who thinks this design of carton is a good idea for children?!

Naturelly Jelly Juice (summer fruits)

Price per 150g * – £1.79

Tom: Err, it’s disgusting, sloppy and gross. Why would anyone buy that?
Harvey: Yucky!

Firstly – it’s a jelly!

I’ve got to be completely fair to this item, it says it’s a juice but it also says on the packet that it’s a fruity snack, and we were comparing it to drinks. If I had served it squeezed into a bowl as a dessert then it would probably have been a different story!

I thought it was OK, I finished off both of theirs! I have to admit though it’s a little disconcerting squeezing out a jelly into your mouth. If you squeeze it into a bowl, it’s grey, gloopy, and looks thoroughly unappealing.

It’s over 70% natural juice and puree, which means it’s good for you up to the point of its sugar content. I have to admit though, I would never buy this as a drink replacement or otherwise.

Packaging-wise, being resealable, it’s pretty much spot on and something that drinks manufacturers should consider.

The Results

When it comes to taste testing, the fruit juices were a clear winner for Tom and myself. Harvey generally loved the taste of the fruit juices but wouldn’t pick them if he had a choice, simply because he likes things that are a little less sweet.

The Juices

When I say ‘Fruit Juices’, just to be clear, I am not including the Fruit Shoot. The taste is simply revolting to me, and the kids don’t like it either (though to be fair they don’t dislike it quite as much as I do).

It contains just 8% of concentrated orange, the rest of the ingredients being made up of goodness only knows, so a juice it is not.

I’m also disregarding the Naturelly Jelly Juice though I do feel sorry for it. I found it to be all right but Tom and Harvey found it absolutely revolting! My only conclusion is that it was the expectation versus the reality – squeezing jelly into your mouth through a tube after you’ve been testing juices must be a bit strange. I loved the practical packaging though.

The remaining juices are the Innocent and the Pip Cloudy Apple Juice which are 100% fruit juice, and the Cawston Press, which is 60% fruit juice mixed up with water.

Although I loved the taste and I appreciate the health benefits of fruit juices they certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for a drink for the kids, at least not one I would give them regularly. I would certainly buy them as a treat as they make an excellent healthy alternative to chocolates and sweets, and are certainly a better option than full sugar fizzy drinks which don’t have any health benefits.

Naturally occurring sugars or not, it is still recommended that children should have only 150ml of pure fruit juice a day, and young children should have it significantly watered down.

If you had one child who continuously drank full fat Coke and another who continuously drank 100% freshly squeezed orange juice then the chances are they would both have similar issues with their teeth. The goodness of juice is eroded if you drink it in vast quantities.

The Waters

With regard to the waters, aside from the Pip Organic, the other three contain zero sugar and can therefore be consumed in larger quantities than fruit juice. The tastes are nowhere near as strong as the fruit juices but Harvey proves that not every child likes a strong, sugary flavour. Besides, the Get More B Vitamins had a spectacular taste (if only it didn’t remind me of diarrhoea medicine!).

My main concern with the waters is obviously a long list of ingredients which are completely alien to every normal person. The fruit juices are far more natural. If the ingredients could be made clearer, I’d be a lot happier.

Considering their vitamin promises, these seem to be a marketing ploy to pitch them against fruit juices. I’m not saying they’re not true, but if your children have a healthy diet (including the occasional fruit juice) then there is usually no need to supplement, especially B vitamins which are easily obtained from practically any diet.

So, a word of caution: be very careful when it comes to selecting your flavoured water. The three true waters above contain no sugar at all, but that is not the case with every type of water. The most popular brand of flavoured water is Volvic’s Touch of Fruit – each bottle contains the equivalent in sugar of three donuts!

Conclusion

It’s got to be the water for me, and the kids are with me too, Harvey on the taste, Tom mainly on the fact that the waters come in bigger portions. I buy these kind of things when we’re away from the house and I feel that if I needed something I would be comfortable with them drinking a lot of if they needed it.

The fruit juices are great but I would see them as one of their ‘five a day’, or a special treat to replace sweets, one that is full of vitamins and is good for them without them knowing. The sugar content puts me off giving them on a regular basis or replacing the cordial altogether.

Better Packaging Please

The most surprising thing I’ve found as a parent buying kids drinks is the lack of innovation with the packaging. I’m not alone with my kids in finding the taste of Fruit Shoots quite revolting, but other parents as well as myself will continue to buy them because the bottle is great. Why is no-one else doing it?

The Innocent Juice carton says ‘Just for Kids’ on it. Do they really think the kids are going to be the ones left holding it after they’ve had one sip and want to save the rest for later? Cartons are not practical vessels for kids drinks. We need resealable drinks all the way. This may be another reason why I’ve been pulled towards the bottles of water as a preference.

So we’ve decided – a nicely flavoured, sugar free water served up in a Fruit Shoot bottle would be lovely, thank you!

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