Is Flavored Water Healthy for Children?

Flavored water is a healthy drink to hydrate our children, as long as it's made without sugar and additives. Keep reading to learn more.
Is Flavored Water Healthy for Children?

Last update: 13 February, 2024

Many times, we have to use certain strategies to get our children to consume the amount of water they need on a daily basis. And that’s when we think of flavored water as a good alternative. But are you sure that it’s a healthy drink for your family? That’s exactly the question that we’re going to answer below.

If water is an essential component for life, then flavored waters are seen as a harmless source, as they contain water and some flavor. Or do they have other components that we don’t know about? Let’s take a look.

What’s flavored water?

Flavored water is a variant of bottled water that has been flavored with natural or artificial flavors. It’s presented as an attractive option to regular drinking water and may be more palatable to children because it has a more pleasant taste.

These beverages are intended to provide a refreshing beverage where taste is a priority. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also makes it clear that flavored water can vary and contain additional components.

All ingredients must meet FDA safety requirements and appear on the package label. What components are added? How can you differentiate them from other flavored beverages? Keep reading to learn the answers.

Which drinks may appear to be flavored water but aren’t?

A toddler drinking juice from a bottle.

It’s essential to distinguish between flavored waters and other beverages that aren’t, such as carbonated beverages, sports drinks, and other beverages that aren’t technically “flavored water.”

The formulation of flavored waters can range from a simple addition of flavor and no added sugar to other ingredients similar to those used in soft drinks. This is explained in a study in the journal Foods published in 2022.

Carbonated drinks and sports drinks contain higher amounts of sugar, and although they may taste similar to flavored waters, their chemical composition and target are different.

According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the most common flavors of flavored waters are as follows:

  • lemon
  • orange
  • mixed berries
  • apples
  • herbs
  • vegetables
  • spices

In addition to flavorings and water, commercial drinks marketed as flavored water include other ingredients:

  • sugar
  • artificial sweeteners
  • acidulants such as citric acid
  • colorants
  • preservatives
  • fruit juices and flavorings
  • sodium, potassium, amino acids, and vitamins are also added

What should be considered when giving flavored water to children?

When choosing flavored water for our children, it’s important to make a detailed review of the nutritional label to verify the ingredients it contains.

As we’ve seen, despite their healthy appearance, many flavored waters may contain sugars and additives. As stated by Popkins and Hauken in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology and by Sara Bleich with her work group, sugary drinks in children can contribute to tooth decay, obesity, and other health problems.

The journal General Dentistry, for its part, clarifies that it’s not only the sugar in soft drinks that causes tooth decay but also the citric acid added to them.

Although flavored waters don’t contain as much sugar as soft drinks, if children tend to drink them regularly, they can still develop cavities.

A study published in the journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2022 noted that the presence of additives and colorings in beverages can also cause allergic reactions or gastrointestinal irritation.

So, are flavored waters healthy for children?

The answer depends on the type of flavored water. For example, waters with no added sugars and natural flavorings may be a healthier option. However, beware of those that contain hidden sugars and additives.

In the same vein, the U.S. government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that added sugars contribute less than 10% of total calories consumed per day.

Based on this, in the journal Pediatrics, it was reported that U.S. children consume up to 17% of what’s required. Of this, half comes from sugar-sweetened beverages.

At the same time, the data presented in the Nutrition Journal makes it clear that excessive consumption of flavored waters in children can generate the expectation that all beverages should be flavored. And, consequently, it can decrease the consumption of pure water.

Therefore, to ensure that flavored water is healthy for children, it’s crucial to carefully select the ingredients, opting for those that have positive effects on health.

Another option is to prepare flavored waters at home with basic ingredients. Are you ready to prepare some? Keep reading for some important tips.

How to make your own flavored water to give to your children

A child drinking natural flavored water from a straw.

An alternative to commercial flavored water is to prepare it at home. This allows you to have control of the ingredients and ensure that they’re natural and free of sugars and harmful additives.

A simple recipe is to choose the fruit of your child’s preference. Some options are strawberries, oranges, lemon, cucumber, or mint. Wash them and cut them into thin slices.

Then add the fruit to the water and leave it for a couple of hours in the refrigerator to absorb the flavor. After this time, filter the drink and serve it very cold.

Aspects to take into account

The variety of flavored waters on the market that contain sugars and additives don’t make them the best option for children. For special occasions, it’s better to choose those with natural flavors and without sweeteners. For this reason, labels should be read very well before making purchases.

A good alternative is to prepare them at home with the fruits of your preference and without sugar. Your little ones should also be encouraged to drink mineral water as the first choice for healthy hydration.

Here are the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics to keep your children hydrated. Amounts vary according to age, physical activity, and environmental conditions.

  • 1 to 3 years: 4 glasses of water a day, including milk
  • 4 to 8 years: 5 glasses a day
  • Over 8 years of age: 6 or 7 glasses of water a day

In conclusion, while flavored water can offer a refreshing alternative to plain water, its healthiness for children hinges on careful consideration of its ingredients and consumption patterns. Understanding the nuances of flavored water, including potential additives like sugars, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives, is crucial in making informed choices for our families. Commercial varieties often contain hidden sugars and additives, which may contribute to adverse health effects if consumed excessively.

Homemade flavored water, made with natural ingredients like fruits and herbs, presents a healthier option, allowing for greater control over what our children consume. Moreover, promoting the consumption of plain water as the primary source of hydration is paramount for maintaining optimal health. By being mindful of ingredients and encouraging healthy hydration habits, we can ensure that flavored water serves as a refreshing and beneficial beverage for our children’s well-being.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • An, U., Du, X., & Wang, W. (2022). Consumer Expectation of Flavored Water Function, Sensory Quality, and Sugar Reduction, and the Impact of Demographic Variables and Woman Consumer Segment. Foods (Basel, Switzerland)11(10), 1434.
  • Elija el Agua para una hidratación saludable. (n.d.). 
  • Barroso, M. F., Noronha, J. P., Delerue-Matos, C., & Oliveira, M. B. (2011). Flavored waters: influence of ingredients on antioxidant capacity and terpenoid profile by HS-SPME/GC-MS. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry59(9), 5062–5072.
  • Drewnowski, A., Rehm, C. D., & Constant, F. (2013). Water and beverage consumption among children age 4-13y in the United States: analyses of 2005-2010 NHANES data. Nutrition journal12, 85.
  • Gonzáles, Eilen & Rodríguez Martínez, Oxalis & Ortega, Ariel & Pérez Cruz, Enrique & Nuñez de Villavicencio, Margarita & Maura, Madelyn. (2019). AGUA SABORIZADA DE LIMÓN CON JARABE PREBIÓTICO. Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos. 29. 66-71.
  • Muth, N. D., Dietz, W. H., Magge, S. N., Johnson, R. K., American Academy of pediatrics, Section on Obesity, Committee on Nutrition, & American Heart Association (2019). Public Policies to Reduce Sugary Drink Consumption in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics143(4), e20190282.
  • Nguyen Ngoc, C., Ghuman, T., Ahmed, S. N., & Donovan, T. E. (2018). The erosive potential of additive artificial flavoring in bottled water. General dentistry66(5), 46–51.
  • Popkin, B. M., & Hawkes, C. (2016). Sweetening of the global diet, particularly beverages: patterns, trends, and policy responses. The lancet. Diabetes & endocrinology4(2), 174–186.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA regulates the safety of bottled water beverages including flavored water and nutrient-added water beverages.
  • Witkowski, M., Grajeta, H., & Gomułka, K. (2022). Hypersensitivity Reactions to Food Additives-Preservatives, Antioxidants, Flavor Enhancers. International journal of environmental research and public health19(18), 11493.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.