When most of us were kids, Coke was as common in the ‘fridge as milk, and thirsty Little Leaguers were as likely to be given Hi-C as water. But times have changed, and so has awareness when it comes to what our kids drink. Even wholesome-sounding juice has gotten a bad rap, and for good reason; a 16-ounce Ocean Spray Cran-Apple drink has 320 calories and 62 grams of sugar—more than three Twinkies.
“Think of juice like sugar water,” my friend, an obesity researcher at Harvard, recently told me while we watched second-grade soccer players suck down OJ and Munchkins after a recent game. Like the American Academy of Pediatrics, he advised that we should be offering children two beverages: milk and water.
Sound advice; but not much fun. Especially on a hot summer afternoon or evening.
I’m not ready to deprive my kids of soda and juice completely. Some of my warmest childhood memories involve Shirley Temples. I think lemonade is a rite—and right—of summer. But for those hot, not-so-special occasions, I wanted some refreshing options that don’t involve a snack-cake’s worth of sugar. So I fooled around with the blender and talked to my nutritionist and foodie friends. Then, I asked the kids to belly up to the kitchen island for some taste testing. Here’s what they say are worthy of second rounds.
This is a great way to use up the watermelon in your ‘fridge that’s become a little mushier than ideal. If grown-ups are involved, add a vodka or gin to the adults’ pitcher. Delicious.
3 cups watermelon chunks
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup cubed or crushed ice
1/2 cup water
If ice is in big chunks, add that to blender first to chop it up a bit. Then add other ingredients and blend until smooth but not too frothy. Serve immediately; give a quick stir if watermelon pulp floats to top.
Makes 4 cups
I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love lemonade, and to deny children this summer staple seems cruel and unusual. But to counteract the sour base fruit, lemonade typically includes loads of sugar—27 grams, or 2.25 tablespoons, per cup. Thankfully, the kitchen scientists at Cook’s Illustrated have come up with a simple trick to cut half the sugar out of lemonade without losing sweetness: adding the zest to the lemonade while making it (and straining before serving). It works!
4 tablespoons sugar
2.5 cups room temperature or warm water
a pinch of salt
Put the juice of five lemons and most of the zest from all of them into a pitcher. (If you don’t already have them, a Microplane zester and an enameled citrus press make these jobs easy, and will serve heroically in countless other recipes.) Let the zest and juice sit for five minutes. In the meantime, mix water, sugar, and pinch of salt in a pitcher. Then, strain the lemon juice into the sugar water so the zest is removed. Chill in fridge for at least a half-hour and serve cold or over ice.
Makes 4 cups
While kids aren’t commonly fans of hot tea, many like cold tea, and it can be a real treat for a summer dinner, luncheon or picnic. I love this flavorful homemade version, adapted from healthy chef Ellie Krieger. The ginger doesn’t overwhelm, just adds a nice zip (and some stomach-soothing benefits).
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup roughly chopped ginger
2 cups water (plus 6 cups later)
5 black tea bags (I use decaffeinated Lipton, but choose your favorite—Raspberry or Orange flavored black would be good)
Juice from half a lemon
Bring 2 cups water, honey, and ginger chunks in saucepan over stove. Once it starts to boil, lower heat and simmer for five minutes. Turn off heat and add tea bags, letting steep for a half-hour. Meanwhile, fill pitcher with 6 cups cold water and juice from half of a lemon. After tea has steeped, strain out solids and add warm tea into cold water and lemon juice mixture. Chill for at least half-hour in fridge and serve cold or over ice.
Makes 8 cups (a large pitcher’s worth)
This is a simple idea that elevates plain old seltzer into something a little more special. While I’ve posted about making homemade fruity ice cubes before, you can also skip the dicing and the trays and just freeze whole, small, firm fruit, like berries or grapes, to create instant, easy ice cubes that are really fun to eat at the end of your drink. Challenge the soda-lovers in your family to replace diet or flavored soda with seltzer or plain club soda for a week. We find that once you wean off of it, regular soda tastes cloyingly sweet.
1 liter favorite flavored seltzer (we like raspberry-lime, cranberry-lime, or Polar seltzer’s new Watermelon Margarita flavor)
1 cup raspberries (or blueberries or blackberries)
Spread a cup of berries on a small tray, plate, or piece of waxed paper in the freezer for at least an hour. Pour seltzer into a pretty pitcher and float a few frozen berries on top. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 cups
HHK’s resident nutrition advisor, the fabulous dietitian and cookbook author Dana White, loves serving fruit-infused waters to her kids in the summertime. “My girls like experimenting with different colors and flavors so we make a bit of a game out of it— making small batches to see what we like best,” she says. Because we are Red Sox fans around here, and it just so happens that a handful of Fenway-hued fruits and veggies—green apples, cucumbers, and green grapes—happen to hold up extra-nicely in a pitcher of water over time, we’ve landed upon this as our favorite flavor combo this year.
1/2 cup while green grapes (frozen in freezer for an hour beforehand makes them extra cold and crunchy)
1/2 cup cucumber slices (about 1/4 inch thickness)
1/2 cup green apple slices (about 1/4 inch thickness)
8 cups water
Combine cold or frozen fruit and water in pitcher, and chill in fridge for at least one hour. Serve infused water alone or with a couple of the fruits and veggies floating on top.
Makes about 8 cups (a large pitcher’s worth)