I'll never forget the first time I heard someone speak on healthy eating. I sat in awe at things I'd never heard of before with a bit of skepticism and inner eye rolls, I must admit. I heard the speaker explain about the danger of just about every food I'd ever eaten and of those I was giving my children. I had many questions, but the one I actually asked was, "What on earth do I give my kids to drink?" I'll never forget her sweet smile as she replied that the best drink for children was clean, pure water. I remember thinking that I could never get my kids to drink water.
I'm going to skip the science on the following information since it is readily available in many great books and online. This is just a starting point for you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions about what works for your family regarding beverages.
What's really wrong with pop (a.k.a. soda or fizzy drinks)?
If you take a look at the ingredients of a can of pop, there are really no good ones. All of them have harmful or potentially harmful effects on health. The two top reasons I don't like my kids to have much pop are the corn syrup/sugar that depresses the immune system and the combined ingredients that actually draw calcium from their bones which are growing at this stage of their lives.
But I give my kids sugar-free drinks!
Yes, sugar is something to limit or avoid in children for a myriad of reasons, but what replaces the sugar in those drinks? If it is what I call "fake" sugar, I believe it is worse. Artificial sweeteners make the body crave more food since it is promised sweetness in taste but isn't actually getting it. This can cause obesity. They are also known to cause neurological problems and cancer in lab animals. If they caution pregnant women and babies against them, then I don't think they are good for children or non-pregnant women either.
So juice has to be the answer!
Not exactly. God designed fruit and vegetables for us as the most perfect foods for health. Each fruit or vegetable is a complete package with everything we need to digest and use the nutrients. When we take only the juice out of these fruits and drink it in large quantities, we are just drinking the sugar from the fruit. We were not intended to consume that much sugar, natural though it may be.
What other options are there?
I will tell you how we consume beverages in our home. This is not the only or the perfect way. I'm only telling you to give you some ideas if you're new to healthy beverages. We are not yet to the drinking only water point, nor do I expect us ever to be.
With the children, I try to limit any beverages besides water to meal time. They each have their own water bottles which they keep in the fridge and sip on if they get thirsty. For breakfast, they either have 100% juice diluted with water about 3:1 (my 9-year-old gets more juice than that and my baby gets less) or Emergen-C. I put 1/2 packet in a glass of water for each kid. At lunchtime, we usually just drink water. For supper, I usually make northern sweet tea (meaning I don't put so much sugar in it is syrup-y, but it still tastes sweet). Sometimes in the afternoon, my daughter will make some hot tea. She loves herbal teas, but occasionally she drinks green or black--whatever we have on hand. You will notice that milk is absent from this list. I do give my kids milk up until they are 2, but I don't encourage it after that. I think milk was created to nourish baby cows (not humans); and I don't have a source for raw, unprocessed milk so we don't use it much as a beverage.
As for adults, I'm not against caffeine. It doesn't seem to have any negative effect on me unless I drink it in excess. If I skip caffeine for a day or two, I don't seem to have any withdrawal effects, either. I do try to limit it and only drink it in naturally occurring sources. I drink my morning coffee and sometimes afternoon coffee. I like to make a bottle of green tea and add my full packet of Emergen-C to it. I occasionally drink pop, but when I do it seems all I can taste is the corn. Ugh! Our family abstains completely from alcoholic beverages. We feel that the negative health effects outweigh any positive health effects such as those touted by red wine enthusiasts. The moral complications also cause us to avoid them as they seem contrary to wise living.
Where do we go from here?
My personal goal for myself and our family is to completely eliminate pop. I have done this with artificially sweetened products. They simply never come into my home and I never allow my kids to drink them elsewhere with my knowledge. I'd love to find room in our budget to purchase raw milk (or at least not homogenized) for my baby and our cooking needs. Since I'm not a milk lover, cultured dairy seems unappealing, but I would like to try it sometime. Although I enjoy my tea unsweetened, I just can't see my family accepting that. But who knows? I never thought my kids would love their water bottles!