When I was a kid, LaCroix was the drink we passed over in my grandmother’s fridge to get to the Tab, but these days it’s the hottest drink around. And I have to say, since we made the switch to a Paleo diet, my husband and I have jumped on the LaCroix bandwagon as a healthy alternative to soda.
But is it too good to be true? I mean, what’s actually in these no calorie, sparkling flavored waters? And is it really okay for me to be drinking four of them a day? (Please say yes.)
While some doctors suggest that drinking too much sparkling water can eat away at your teeth enamel and even trigger hunger hormones, potentially making you eat more, I’m with folks who say that sparkling water is pretty good for you. Because it’s just water, right? I decided to look into what’s in our favorite sparkling waters to find out.
CME is an Amazon and rStyle affiliate. Prices are shared to give a general idea of how brands compare, but vary store to store.
According to their websites, the drinks in this category all contain sparkling water, which is regular water with CO2 added for fizz, and “natural flavor” or “natural essence,” presumably extracted from the fruits named on the cans. The FDA qualifies both of these as anything “derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof,” which we’re assuming means that the flavors come from something truly natural, and use of the word is not labeling or marketing trickery. In fact, our guess is that these waters are flavored with something along the lines of essential oil from fruit.
None of these have added sweeteners of any kind, artificial or otherwise.
Perrier Sparkling is a 150-year-old company that is arguably the grandfather of all sparkling water. They use mineral water in their drinks, which adds about 40mg of calcium per 8 oz, and contain nothing bad for you. ($5 per 10-pack)
If you ask me, Polar Seltzer water tends to have more flavor than LaCroix, but don’t get too hooked on just one since they change flavors every season. This year saw Unicorn Kisses, Yeti Mischief, Mermaid Song, and Dragon Whisper, all of which I’m obsessed with. ($4 per 12-pack, more for the fancy flavors)
Poland Spring doesn’t have quite the hip factor that some of the other brands have nailed (hello, Dragon Whisper sparkling water), but it’s made right here in the USA. Also, it tends to be more affordable, which is especially important if you drink a lot. ($3 per 6-pack)
Most famous for their ginger ale, Schweppes has joined the flavored sparkling water movement, too, with seven fairly basic flavors, from lemon-lime to grapefruit. ($25 per 24-pack)
New to the game, Klarbrunn Sparkling Water uses reverse osmosis to purify their water, and I like some of their creative flavor combinations like pineapple-coconut and cranberry-grape that I haven’t seen elsewhere. The only problem is that this brand has limited reach, although it seems that it’s available at some Costco stores. Pricing, however, was unavailable.
You can order Hint Fizz by the case, or even set up a subscription if your sparkling water addiction is serious. Just watch out for those prices. ($20 per 12-pack)
Nestlē Pure Life exotics has some unique flavors, like Key Lime (as opposed to the boring plain lime everyone else has) and Strawberry Dragonfruit. Bonus: they’re the most affordable of the bunch. ($3 for 8-pack)
Flavored sparkling waters: Middle of the road
The drinks in this section have something added beyond natural essence, which makes them slightly less healthy than those in the category above. Whether it’s real fruit juice, sodium, or sugar, they’re just not quite as pure.
The rumors are true: Dasani Sparkling Water does have added salt, although it’s such a small amount that it’s classified as a “low sodium food.” That said, these waters have no sweeteners, no artificial flavors, no juice, and zero calories. So they’re still a pretty great option, if you ask me. ($3 per 8-pack)
Spindrift has cute packaging and no artificial ingredients or added sugar, but they do use real fruit juices and purees to get their flavor — not oils. That adds about 15 calories to your drink (and maybe some bad news for your teeth?), but for the added flavor it might be worth it, at least every once and a while. ($6 per 8-pack)
IZZE Sparkling Water is an organic flavored water that’s low on calories, with only 10 per bottle. The only reason it’s in the “middle of the road” section is that it contains a little added organic cane sugar for a wee bit of extra sweetness. If you’re trying to ditch soda, but are not into the straight-up carbonated waters above, this might be a good option for you. ($20 per 12-pack)
Flavored sparkling waters: Basically soda
The drinks here are all sparkling, but they contain a lot more juice, which gives them more sugar and calories. In some cases, they also contain unnatural ingredients and added coloring, putting them in our probably-want-to-avoid category.
I love the crisp, tart flavor of San Pellegrino fruit drinks, but make no mistake: these are sodas, no flavored water. If you don’t believe me, the 32 grams of sugar per can will have you convinced. Although the ingredients are mostly natural, this isn’t exactly a healthy option. Save this for splurges. ($4 per 6-pack)
IZZE Sparkling Juice — which is different than their sparkling waters (above) — is a fizzy drink made with 70% real fruit juice, so you’ll get up to 107 calories per drink. That said, there are no preservatives or added sugars. It’s a good splurge when you’re craving a soda. ($18 per 24-pack)
Klarbrunn’s Vita ICE drink is made with the same reverse osmosis process that they use to purify their water, but they add sucralose and a whole lot of ingredients that I can’t pronounce, from calcium disodium EDTA to pantothenic acid and Yellow No. 5. Honestly, we’d just stick with their sparkling water. (price unavailable)
Sparkling ICE fruit drinks are similar to Gatorade or Powerade, but with fizz. They may have zero calories, but given that they are made with added sucralose, juice, green tea extract, artificial colors, and preservatives, among other things, I’ll stick with LaCroix. ($11 per 12-pack)