Is Crystal Light Bad for Kids?

I just received this question. “Is it o.k. to give my 9 year old Crystal Light? I’m trying to get her to drink more water.”

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The answer depends on where you stand with artificial sweeteners and colors. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration, I tend to accept they are o.k. for me in moderate doses. I like the taste of Crystal Light, it is low in calories (between 5 and 15 a cup depending on flavor,) and it is super easy to make in those convenient packets. Truth be told, I let my kids have the lemonade now and again, but there are lots of more vigilant parents who wouldn’t. The evidence on what the fake stuff can do to our bodies falls into a gray area, and lots of moms and dads would say when it comes to their kids, better safe than sorry.

People who support a clean diet shout from the rooftops about anything they regard as potentially dangerous, but the fact is, they are rarely scientists and tend to take one study and use it to defend their position without really understanding it. Yes, at extremely high doses, dozens of times higher than anything you could possibly consume in a day even if you were dared, artificial sweeteners can cause cancer in mice. So, you can sink your teeth into that and throw out your stash, or you can accept the reality that in really high doses, just about anything is bad for us, and practice moderation.

In addition to cancer, newer studies are suggesting artificial sweeteners do not work for weight loss, and in fact may work against it. There are many confounding variables, but for me, again, it comes down to moderation. We can waste time demonizing one product or another, or we can focus on teaching our children lifelong, realistic, healthy habits. Water is best, but the occasional sweetened drink is fine, and may keep them from binging on the lemonade at a friend’s house.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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