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Crystal Light in lieu of water, eh? February 7, 2008

Posted by emsgeiss in Green & Frunchy, parenting & family, toddlers.
Tags: , , , , ,

In my own parenting, I try to be respectful of the parenting styles of others. You never know what the circumstances are or any other number of issues for parenting decisions. We’re also only as good as the tools that we’ve got, and with that in mind, I try not to judge—some people’s toolboxes aren’t as complete as others’. Then I read something so rediculous, that I can’t help but not just comment about it, I’m compelled to blog about it. 

In searching for an answer to my own latest toddler drama—day three of refusal to drink milk—I decided to Google it. Okay, that was my first mistake. I should have gone straight to What to Expect The Toddler Years, or to my tried and true parenting sisters at babytalkbio.com.  I’d called my mom, but she wasn’t home, and I was at my wit’s end after having played “Bad Mama” telling my milk-avoiding boy: “no more juice. You’ve had enough today. You can have milk or water,” and the kind of tantrum in reply that breaks your heart.
(He ultimately decided on water.) 

Back to Googling the issue. I plugged in “toddler refuses milk only wants juice,” which took me to Baby Center. In fact two of the top three choices were from Baby Center, the first not applicable to my situation since my boy is older than the child queried about in my search response.  I got directed to the Community Answers section, where there were a lot of answers indeed. Apparently, I’m not the first mom on earth to have their toddler suddenly grow a milk aversion. (No really, I’m not.) Obviously, I knew that was the case, otherwise, I wouldn’t have even thought to do a search on the Web. Some of the answers made sense, but overall, didn’t really help me. As it turns out, the real answer was nestled in the pages of What to Expect and confirmed that I was doing the right thing: giving him cheese, yogurt and calcium-rich veggies so that he at least was still getting his RDA of calcium.  

The fifth answer over in the Baby Center Community Answers is what made me balk. One mother actually suggested giving one’s toddler Crystal Light in order to encourage water drinking.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Intuitively, I know that this isn’t a good idea, and I was kind of wondering where the Baby Center moderators were…I mean, you’re letting this ill-advised information sit there on your Web site, for an unsuspecting parent with a partially-empty tool box possibly heed it. (Oy veigh!) Seven out of eleven people who decided to rate that response found it helpful. Those are some scary odds at nearly 64 percent of responders possibly using the suggestion. 

This of course, led me down a path of research—I had to find out what exactly is in Crystal Light.  Thank you Google!  I found what I needed over at the Kraft’s food Web site after plugging in “Crystal Light nutritional information.” 

Here’s the breakdown for a 2.1 oz cannister of Crystal Light Lemonade flavor:

Citric Acid, Potassium and Sodium citrate, aspartame, magnesium oxide, natural flavor, lemon juice solids, acesulfame potassium, artifical color, yellow 5 Lake, and BHA.

Nutritional information: 
Serving size: 2g
Servings per container: about32
Calories per serving: 5
Calories from fat: 0
% Daily Value (based on a 2,000 calorie diet for adults)
Total fat: 0g/0 %
Trans fat: 0g/0%
Sodium: 35 mg/1%
Total carbohydrates: 0 g/0%
Sugar: 0g/0%
Protein: 0g/0%

So, you’re probably looking at this and thinking: “Okay, that doesn’t look too bad—no sugar, only 1 percent of sodium, no fat; so what gives, Geiss?”

Here’s what gives. Aside from toddlers needing milk and water for their beverages and maybe the occasional whole juices, which they can get from fruit, it’s what’s in Crystal Light that makes it terrible for our kids, not what’s not in it. (And even some juices contain some of these issues, so don’t be fooled.) 

According to the Environmental Working Group, its sister site Skin Deep, and Healthy Child Healthy World, the following substances in Crystal Light have varying levels of potential toxicity:

Aspartame: an artificial sweetener, causes cancer, has developmental/reproductive toxicity, and can cause neurotoxicity.  (And while it’s given a “low hazard” rating, I still don’t think I want those developing cells to be altered by this product.)

Yellow 5 Lake: a food coloring also called Tartrazine and FD&C Yellow No. 5 Lake, it causes cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, and like aspartame can cause neurotoxicity as well as non-reproductive organ toxicity. It’s also may be tested on animals, as “Widely used FD&C and D&C colors are coaltar (bituminous coal) derivatives that are continuously tested on animals due to their carcinogenic properties,” according to Skin Deep. Also a “low hazard,” it would need to have a “zero hazard” rating for me to want to put it in my kid. As a coal tar dye, it is “considered an Unclassifiable Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or another agency [and an] allergen” according to Healthy Child, Healthy World.

BHA: why this is even in food, I have no idea. It is the abbreviation for Butylated hydroxyanisole, and while it may have some antioxidant properties, those cannot outweigh the fact that the National Institutes of Health consider it to be moderately carcinogenic as it belongs to the Ether and Phenol classes of chemicals.  And, recent reports have listed its presence in child-care products as harmful as it is a possible carcinogen, an endocrine disruptor and neurotoxin to name just a few issues with BHA. Again, I don’t think I want it in my kid’s body if I can help it. Now I know what you’re thinking: well, aren’t these things regulated by the FDA? Sure they are, but consider that those regulations and the nutritional information on the panels are designed for adult bodies and metabolisms. And, given the suggested serving sizes, do you really think that anyone is stopping at just one serving size—one that is geared for adults to begin with? My toddler weighs a quarter of my own weight, give or take a few pounds, but he also has a much higher metabolism than I do, given all of the growing, learning(and running around) that he’s doing.

face.jpg  How could I think of giving this little face all of that stuff?

So, while I continue the milk-battle, I don’t think I’ll be using Crystal Light in lieu of water. I’ll take the tantrum, thank you. And he’ll drink the water (not that it doesn’t have its problems) but at least if he’s drinking filtered water, I’ll know that I’m decreasing his chances for future health problems.  Hopefully the seven parents who found Crystal-Light-Mama’s advice helpful, decided to check it out first before giving it to their wee ones.

Copyright ©  2008 Erika-Marie S. Geiss



1. Michele - February 8, 2008

That is insane, Erika! Whew. Glad you’re such a researcher. 😉

A safe drink is to put a little organic apple cider vinegar and a few drops of the natural, herbal sweetener, Stevia, in a cup of water and see if he’d drink that. Sure, the vinegar doesn’t taste great, but when you add the Stevia (or honey), it balances the tartness with the sweetness (like lemonade) and the vinegar replaces electrolytes. 🙂 Since he’s so small, you could just add a smidgen of the vinegar, but it’s a healthy option.

Of course, I know you’ll research it first!


2. Michele - February 9, 2008

Oh, I forgot to mention I linked to you in my latest fictional link love post. 😉



3. Melaniehoo - February 13, 2008

So what should I do with all that Crystal Light in my cupboard? 😉 Good to know – I always learn a lot here, thanks.

4. Krislee - March 10, 2008

Ms. G.

Why not try a calcium fortified orange juice?

I know your trying to break the juice habit but if you are going to give your child juice first then offer milk or water later you won’t have to worry as much about the calcium…just a thought.

5. emsgeiss - March 10, 2008

Thanks Krislee!

Great suggestion…were my darling boy one that could tolerate OJ. Even diluted, it makes diaper changes an unpleasant experience for everybody involved. But…he is getting his calcium from his veggies, which he loves, yogurt, cheese and tofu. (Yes…my child likes tofu…even if he does play with it first. LOL.) I even got him to try some fortified Rice Dream today, in fact. 😉

6. Babies Online The Blog | Nutrition | Balanced & Healthy Eating for Toddlers - April 16, 2008

[…] Those figures* may seem high, but toddlers expend a lot of energy (as any parent of a toddler knows) and therefore need food to support that energy. The energy expended comes from the physical and intellectual (cognitive) development that occurs between one and five. Because their stomachs are smaller, toddlers also need smaller portions distributed more frequently throughout the day. Whole foods, including fruits, vegetables and foods with a high fiber content are important, but so are clean carbohydrates and unsaturated fats. The key is to avoid foods with empty calories as in sugary snacks and foods laden with high-fructose corn syrup. Toddlers should never be given soda/pop or “diet” foods for a variety of health-related reasons. […]

7. Sweet Lucee - April 17, 2008

Please consider a wonderful alternative for a totally chemical and calorie free treat for both children and adults is using a few drops of liquid flavored SweetLeaf Stevia in water. That’s it! It’s Zero Carbs, Zero Glycemic Index and Zero Calories. Sound too good to be true? It’s Not! My favorite flavors in water are Valencia Orange, Vanilla Creme, Root Beer and English Toffee. They are wonderful and tend to encourge a lot more water consumption along with satisfying a “sweet tooth”.
The story of Stevia is just really becoming known, but it’s totally safe. The taste comes from a sweet leaf, then the flavoring is derived from natural ingredients, essential oils form various fruits, and plant based sources. It’s 100% natural and health promoting for the body.
Be sure to look for SweetLeaf Flavors of Liquid Stevia.
Check out http://www.sweetleaf.com, http://www.PuritainPride.com, http://www.WebVitamins.com, http://www.BuyWisdom.com. It’s also available at lots of Markets. In my area some flavors are at Whole Foods and Spouts Markets.

8. Candle - April 17, 2008

Thanks! Sweet Lucee, I’m going to buy the Root Beer Flavored Stevia. I love root beer! I saw it for only $8.95 on-line at: http://www.vitacost.com under the brand name: Wisdom Natural. Sweet Leaf Liquid Stevia Root Beer — 2 fl oz
35% off
Retail price: $13.98
Our price: $8.95
Ships within 24 hours
I am now highly afraid of aspartame. My girlfriend forwarded me an e-mail regarding all the negative effects form using aspartame. When I don’t have my SweetLeaf SteviaPlus packs in my purse at a restaurant, I will go with no sweetener in my tea. It’s upsetting to me that the restaurant industry only offers sugar or the pink, yellow and blue packs. Someone needs to get the SteviaPlus packs into the sweetener dish at restaurants.

9. Sillysully - May 7, 2008

Researching Crystal light, found your blog, then researched Stevia. See link: http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm Stevia is not safe for children either, unfortuately.

10. Rhonda - May 9, 2008

I need to know if after you add Crystal lght to water, is it still water?

11. emsgeiss - May 10, 2008

Rhonda, I think that adding anything to water makes it no longer water.

12. emsgeiss - May 10, 2008

Thanks Sully for the “heads up” on Stevia not being safe for children.

13. casey - May 16, 2008

Hi Sully – you stated that Stevia is not safe for children with a link supporting that, however, as a Stevia user (and my children use it as well) I just want to point out that it is only one study. There are many studies that state that Stevia is safe, so it really depends on who pays for the study. Stevia has been used for over a hundred years in other countries with no reports of harmful side effects. With all the horror stories Ive read about Aspartame and artificial sweetners, I think I will take my chance with Stevia.

14. beepbop - August 31, 2008

pfft everything causes cancer, i’m sure there are whole bunch of foods your giving him with the same ingredients

15. emsgeiss - September 2, 2008

Thanks beepbop for your insight on “everything causes cancer,” which isn’t entirely true. An interesting thought, but not true. Considering that I read the labels on everything that I purchase that goes into our bodies, I can tell you with pretty clear certainty, no. The odds of anything that I feed him regularly containing those ingredients (where such ingredients are disclosed) are slim to none. If we eat out, or he is given food by someone other than me, it is entirely possible, in fact, it’s probably, but the core of his dietary/nutritional intake don’t. In Spanish, we have a saying: “no lo que mata, engorda,” which translates to “what doesn’t kill, fattens” in other words, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t–with that in mind though, I try to stave off death for as long as possible, and hopefully stay a little on the thin side at the same time.

16. David - September 15, 2008

I just happened upon this article while performing another search. I won’t bother picking apart your points – but each and every single thing you said is factually inaccurate. I’ll let the other fine folks who come across this garbage figure it out via the magic that is google.com.

All I have to say is, your poor, poor children.

17. Tish - September 19, 2008

I am a 46 year old woman with stage 5 kidney disease looking to put a little zip in my water.. I just read this and have dumped my cup of crystal light. I wonder how much more damage this has done to my kidneys!

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