Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pedialyte Vs. Powerade

Today was an unsuccessful food day since my husband and I apparently caught whatever Henry had on Friday.  Luckily we weren't throwing up, but the nausea was quite real, and it knocked us both out (isn't there some rule that both parents can't be sick at the same time?).  As a result, Henry spent a lot of time in front of the TV, and when he opted to eat only challah and pretzels today, there wasn't much of a push for him to have anything else.

But, I am feeling mostly better now, and I wanted to do a little research on Pedialyte versus Powerade since I received a few comments and emails regarding the choice to give Henry Powerade on Friday when he was sick.  I'll start off by saying, not that much thought went into it on my part (shocking...and I'm supposed to be the dietitian??).  Before I left for work on Friday, I asked my husband to take Henry to the doctor in the morning, and then after the appointment to pick up some Pedialyte - honestly, it's the only children's rehydrating solution that I knew, so I figured that was the way to go.  But when my husband went to the appointment, the pediatrician recommended getting Gatorade or Powerade since in his experience children of Henry's age (16 months) didn't like the taste of Pedialyte and refused to drink it.  Going with the doctor's recommendation, we stocked our house with Powerade.

So what are the major differences?  According to the Pedialyte website (
Pedialyte is an oral electrolyte solution that is specifically designed to replace fluids and minerals (electrolytes) that are lost when a child has diarrhea with or without vomiting. Pedialyte is effective because it contains only small amounts of sugars (dextrose and fructose) that are balanced with appropriate levels of electrolytes.  Pedialyte is designed with this precise combination of sugars and electrolytes to promote quick fluid and electrolyte absorption. In general, other household beverages such as sports drinks, sweetened sodas and juices are too high in carbohydrates (sugar) and too low in sodium -- an important electrolyte that is lost during diarrhea and vomiting.

Basically, Pedialyte contains 2.5 times more sodium and 55% less sugar than Powerade.  The idea being that more sodium is needed to replenish the body after vomiting and diarrhea than after a workout.  In addition, sugar can exacerbate diarrhea, so Pedialyte uses only a small amount of dextrose and fructose, and then adds artificial sweeteners (sucralose and acesulfame potassium) to help make the beverage more palatable to kids.  Powerade just uses High Fructose Corn Syrup as its sweetener.  One note here is that the World Health Organization's Oral Rehydration Solution, which is considered the "gold standard" contains about 10 grams of sugar for an equal volume of Pedialyte (6 grams sugar) and Powerade (14 grams sugar).

So which should you choose? Well, you should talk to your doctor for his/her recommendation based on your child, as well as go with what you are most comfortable with.  In Henry's case, he had only vomited 4 times and did not have diarrhea.  Our main concern was keeping him hydrated, and since he liked the taste of Powerade, he was able to drink more Powerade than he would drink water.  So for our needs, it worked well.

And what would I do next time? Well, I'd definitely keep Powerade on hand since I know Henry likes the flavor.  But, given that Pedialyte has less sugar, I would like to try that next time, especially if Henry has diarrhea.  And if Henry absolutely can't stand it, at least I'll still have some Powerade.

Or maybe next time I'll try a homemade oral rehydrating solution...wishful thinking. When your kid is puking and you're running around cleaning vomit-drenched sheets and clothes, and trying to get to work, there's not really time for homemade remedies...

Happy and (mostly) healthy eating!


  1. Thank you for this write-up, currently contemplating whether to give my young child a very weak powerade solution rather then going out to specifically buy Pedialyte.

  2. There is a sugar free powerade that I buy for my kids.

  3. Yes, thank you for the advice, my daughter has a very high fever and I've been looking for some discussion for the weaker ade argument. The sugar free option sound good as well.

  4. Or you could purchase Wubba Water, an organic electrolyte drink for kids. No synthetic dyes, no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, less than 2 grams of sugar/serving and comes in 12 oz bottles. Also avail on Amazon. Oh, and tastes great!

  5. Powerade Zero is a good choice too :) I drink it after my workouts because I don't like to consume a lot of sugar. It has a more mild flavor than the original, but it still tastes sweet :)
    Don't get too worried over the little details here and there- you sound like you make reasonable and honest decisions for yourself. People will always try and criticize other's parenting.