I guess it was inevitable. There's organic cream soda, organic cheese puffs, and organic gummy bears. And now there's organic Gatorade.
The new line, called G Organic, contains seven ingredients: water, organic cane sugar, citric acid, organic natural flavor, sea salt, sodium citrate, and potassium chloride. The ingredient list is shorter than regular Gatorade (and bye-bye synthetic food dyes), but the amount of carbohydrates and electrolytes it contains are the same.
Frankly, G Organic worries me. Not because I think it's necessarily a bad idea. I'm sure some athletes who use sports drinks appreciate having the option of organic Gatorade.
It worries me because some parents may now think Gatorade is a healthy option for their children, or they may feel better about giving their kids a sports drink because it's organic. But the truth is, most kids simply don't need sports drinks, organic or not.
Sports drinks were originally developed for serious athletes to provide a quick source of carbohydrates and electrolytes during prolonged activity. They were not developed for 7-year-old soccer players trotting around the field for 45 minutes or kids running around in the backyard on a hot day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, water is the best way for most kids to hydrate before, during, and after physical activity.
Yes, young athletes who are playing sports intensely for more than an hour (such as an hours-long tournament) may benefit from a sports drink if they need fast fuel. Otherwise, kids can easily (and more healthfully) replenish carbs and electrolytes with the next snack or meal. Electrolytes are not some magical substance found only in sports drinks. The potassium and sodium in sports drinks are in food too, like a simple PB&J and banana.
Sugary drinks are a huge problem right now and the No. 1 source of added sugar for adults and kids. Sports drinks are not a healthier alternative to sugary drinks like soda, though marketing has convinced a lot of people that they are. In one study, more than a quarter of parents rated sports drinks as "healthy"—and 40 percent considered Gatorade specifically to be healthy.
But here's the reality: G Organic contains the same amount of added sugar as regular Gatorade. That's seven teaspoons in a 16.9-ounce bottle—more than the maximum amount recommended by the American Heart Association for kids for the entire day! That much added sugar in one drink simply isn't healthy, especially in a drink that's not necessary for most kids. No organic seal can change that.
What's your opinion on sports drinks for kids?
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.