Flavored Water Can Be a Healthy Alternative to Soda — Here Are 10 Brands Dietitians Love

Enjoy flavored water on its own for a refreshing pick-me-up or try it in homemade cocktails and mocktails to cut back on sugar.

Sipping on plain H2O might not be the most exciting thing for your palate, but keeping up with your hydration needs is key. Enter: Flavored waters.

They enhance your drinking experience while still offering the hydration benefits your body needs.

From watermelon to cucumber, most flavored waters are sparkling, as they are meant to replace sodas and other fizzy drinks that are high in sugar. Sparkling mineral water comes from the ground and is naturally carbonated, and contains trace amounts of minerals, such as calcium, sodium and magnesium. Seltzer and club soda are waters infused with carbon dioxide for carbonation.

In fact, mineral water can be a source of bioavailable calcium for bone health, per a December 2018 review in Nutrients. Because of their bubbles, sparkling flavored waters can also fill you up and reduce your chances of overeating.

Their delicious flavor might also help you increase your H2O intake (which is always a good thing).

Need a way to easily track your daily water intake? Download the MyPlate app to do the job, so you can stay focused and achieve your goals!

As far as the drawbacks of flavored water go, they're pretty minimal. Fizzy waters may cause a little bloating and gas because of their carbonation.

And while sparkling water is more acidic than regular water, sparkling water and seltzers are less acidic than soda and some juices, so they're less likely to damage teeth enamel and cause cavities, according to UCLA Health.

Here, we tapped May Zhu, RDN, LDN, founder of Nutrition Happens, and Keri Glassman, RD, CDN, founder and CEO of Nutritious Life for their flavored water shopping tips — and the best brands to buy.

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing Flavored Water

1. Be Wary of Natural Flavors

The natural flavors in flavored waters are flavors derives from spices, fruits and vegetables, herbs, bark leaves and even meat, seafood, poultry and eggs.

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines natural flavors as ingredients derived from a plant or animal matter that serves to add flavor and not nutrition, so it's not a source of carbs, protein, fats or vitamins and minerals," Zhu tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Because the FDA hasn't defined the term "natural," it can be an umbrella term to describe almost any type of food. And to extract the flavor, additional chemicals must be used to process the ingredient, Zhu says.

To add to the complexity, Zhu says food manufacturers aren't required to disclose their processing procedures, so as long as they are extracting flavors from plants or animals, it can be classified as a natural flavor.

The FDA currently identifies natural flavors as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). This is all to say that while natural flavors aren't found to be harmful, you should try to keep track of your intake of them.

"There are no definite health risks associated with consuming natural flavors, but the best practice here is to be more aware of how much you are consuming over time and continue to focus your diet on whole food ingredients without natural or artificial additives," Zhu says.

2. Avoid Added Sugars

Isn't water just water? Well, in the case of flavored waters, some may contain artificial sweeteners and added sugar from fruit juices.

"Avoid artificial sweeteners and flavors, and be wary of natural sweeteners like stevia," Glassman tells LIVESTRONG.com. While stevia has no calories, it can trick your brain into thinking that you're eating sugar, so it may heighten your addiction to sugar instead of helping you ween off it if you have too much, she says.

Zhu suggests limiting added sugar from flavored water to under six to eight grams max per serving. FYI, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a daily total added sugar intake of 36 grams for men and 25 grams for women.

"If you're looking for alternative ways to add flavor, try adding fresh fruit, herbs or even a little bit of fruit juice to plain sparkling water as a way to be more mindful about the total sugars consumed from drinks," she says.

"Ideally, our beverages would not be a source of sugar at all," Glassman adds.

"Around 15 grams of sugar is how much you'd get in a piece of fruit. Use that as a frame of reference and remember that the water doesn't come along with fiber and vitamins and minerals. Personally, I'd rather have the sugar from a real piece of fruit, which will also provide the antioxidants and natural fiber along with it."

3. Take Caution With Trendy Add-Ins

Ideally, your flavored H2O should have minimal ingredients. It's water, after all. But if your flavored water is touting ingredients, like CBD oil and adaptogens, the effects may be minimal and you're unlikely to see any real benefits.

"Keep in mind that as active ingredients, you need a specific amount to really make a difference. So don't be fooled into thinking that you're definitely reaping all of the benefits of these ingredients from your beverage," Glassman says. In reality, the dosage of these ingredients might be just enough for the product to say that they include them.

"Ingredients such as adaptogens and CBD might need to be consumed more regularly over a period of time to maximize any effects, so benefits are created with consumption habits over time," Zhu says.

Waters with collagen provide some protein and contribute to your overall daily protein intake, but again, the health claims are subject to how often you drink them, she adds.

If you're seeking sips with more carbs and protein, you're better off with a smoothie or protein shake instead.

Tip

Some flavored waters may also contain caffeine, so scan the nutrition label and make sure to track your daily intake, keeping it to 400 milligrams or less.

To help you make healthier choices when shopping for flavored waters, here are some of Zhu and Glassman's top picks, plus other brands we know and love.

10 Healthy Flavored Waters to Buy

1. Spindrift, Lemon

Unlike most flavored sparkling waters that rely on natural flavors, Spindrift uses a splash of real fruit juice for a subtle sweetness.
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

Per serving: 3 calories, 0 milligrams sodium, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 1 gram carbohydrates (0 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 0 grams protein

Tickle your taste buds with a subtle burst of pineapple, grapefruit, lime and orange mango. Spindrift's flavored sparkling waters are a top choice for Zhu and Glassman because of their use of freshly squeezed fruit juice — not from concentrate.

"I always like recommending Spindrift because it's made with real fruit juice and puree. Every flavor has less than three grams of sugar and it's from the fruit," Zhu says. Choose from 11 refreshing flavors, including one that's half unsweetened iced tea and half lemon sparkling water.

Glassman points out that some flavors have more sugar than others, so make sure to consider the amount in your daily intake.

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $17.97 per pack of 24

2. San Pellegrino Essenza Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, Tangerine & Wild Strawberry

San Pellegrino's bright, effervescent waters are perfect for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

Per serving: 0 calories, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 10 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams sugar), 0 grams protein

San Pellegrino is an Italian brand that takes pride in its mineral water and has been in business for more than 120 years.

San Pellegrino's hydration creations claim to pair perfectly with certain foods. The Tangerine & Wild Strawberry sparkling water, for example, goes well with medium-flavored dishes, such as sauteed veggies, chicken or fish and fresh pasta.

Made with zero artificial sweeteners and zero calories, this European flavored water could elevate your dinner like a fine glass of wine.

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $5.38 per pack of 8

3. La Croix Berry Sparkling Water

La Croix is Whole30-approved and can fit into any other diet plan.
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Per serving: 0 calories, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams sugar), 0 grams protein

LaCroix's sparkling water flavors are made from extracted natural essence oils from fruit. The flavored waters also have zero calories, artificial sweeteners and sugars.

Take your pick from dozens of flavors, including Mango, Tangerine, Passionfruit, Coconut and Peach-Pear. You'll love their subtle taste and they'll quench your thirst for something sweet minus the calories and sugar.

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.95 per pack of 10

4. Bubly Sparkling Water, Grapefruit

Each bright can comes with a cutesy greeting on the tab — sure to make you smile.
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Per serving: 0 calories, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams sugars, 0 grams added sugars), 0 grams protein

Regular and diet soda aren't exactly great for your health, so in response, PepsiCo created a line of sparkling waters called Bubly that's free of sugar and artificial sweeteners.

The colorful cans come in 15 different flavors, such as Cherry, Apple, Strawberry, Lime and Orange. Use them in place of sugary juices and mixers in alcoholic drinks and sip on their deliciously effervescent taste.

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $7.61 per pack of 18

5. Perrier Carbonated Mineral Water, Lime

You can find Perrier's flavors in single-serve cans, glass bottles and large plastic bottles that are fit for a crowd.
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Per serving: 0 calories, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams sugars, 0 grams added sugars), 0 grams protein

Known as "the champagne of table water," Perrier has been making bottled water since 1863. Pop a bottle of this bubbly, and you can pretend you're vacationing in the French Riviera.

Much like the other sparkling waters on this list, Perrier uses natural flavors. Its clean and crisp flavor makes it a perfect canvas for healthier homemade cocktails.

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $13.62 per pack of 30

6. Topo Chico Mineral Water, Grapefruit

This old-school brand has been cranking out sparkling water since 1895.
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Per serving: 0 calories, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 10 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams sugar), 0 grams protein

Sourced and bottled in Monterrey, Mexico, Topo Chico is a fizzy mineral water boasts some sodium, magnesium and calcium.

"I'm personally a big fan of the original, plain Topo Chico. If you want to add additional flavor, it's great with a splash of fresh lemon or lime juice," Zhu says. A cult favorite, people who swear by it say that it has a slight salty flavor and has a little more carbonation than other sparkling waters.

With Classic plain, Lime and Grapefruit flavors, you're sure to find something that matches your mood.

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $18.99 per pack of 4

7. Hint Sparkling Water, Watermelon

Fill your cooler with Watermelon Hint for a weekend beach day or drop the Blackberry into your gym bag.
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Per serving: 0 calories, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams sugars, 0 grams added sugars), 0 grams protein

Hint flavored sparkling water provides just that — a touch of watermelon, blackberry, clementine, ginger and many others.

A great way to ween off of your soda addiction, Hint's waters are infused with natural flavors from fruits and contain zero calories, sugar, artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Consider this a hint that you should grab a few bottles of this carbonated H2O.

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.99 per pack of 4

8. JUST Water Organic Cherry

JUST's flavored water is flat rather than fizzy, making it perfect for people sensitive to carbonation.
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Per serving: 0 calories, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams sugars, 0 grams added sugars), 0 grams protein

JUST Water's bottles are made with paper from sustainably managed forests and the brand claims to use 82 percent renewable resources.

As for the water, JUST Water uses organic fruit essences, so the flavor is light yet refreshing. Certified USDA organic, JUST has no sweeteners, artificial flavors and calories, and sources its water from Glens Falls, New York.

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $22.99 per pack of 12

9. Halo Sport Organic Hydration Drink, Fruity Pink Lemonade

Halo comes in flavors including Black Cherry, Peach, Tangerine and Pineapple.
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Per serving: 10 calories, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 240 milligrams sodium, 2 grams carbohydrates (2 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 0 grams protein

For a flavored water drink with a boost of electrolytes, Glassman likes Halo Sport. This sports drink alternative is sweetened with natural fruit juice and flavors and delivers minerals and vitamins — such as potassium — that'll help you recover after a workout.

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $35.99 per pack of 12

10. Waterloo Sparkling Water, Blueberry

Whether you're mixing it into a homemade cocktail (or mocktail) or enjoying it on its own, Waterloo will hit the spot.
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Per serving: 0 calories, 0 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams sugars, 0 grams added sugars), 0 grams protein

Waterloo uses purified carbonated water, so it's free of fluoride, sodium, additives and impurities.

It uses extracted fruit essences and oils for flavor and comes in Blueberry, Strawberry, Grape, Watermelon, Black Cherry, Mango, Coconut, Grapefruit and Plain. Bonus: The cans are BPA-free

Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.49 per pack of 12

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