Back in the late 90s to early 2000s, there was a craze for children to go to school with lunches from famous fast food joints, which usually were a combination of burgers, fries, spaghetti or chicken and rice, and sodas or root beers.
Well, now we know better than to spend a ton of money on fast food lunches for our kids and instead spend more on healthy snacks, which, by the way, are now more expensive than actual junk food. Talk about a complete paradox. But the point we want to get to today is if it is even remotely safe for children to consume root beer at all.
The Root of It All
Beer and root beer are two different beverages coming from different sources as well. Beer is often made by fermenting grains like barley with the addition of yeast, hops, and water.
Root beer, on the other hand, is made from the root of the sassafras tree, and it goes back to the 1840s with the Native Americans who have been making it for their consumption. But it was commercially sold only in 1875 when a man named Charles Elmer Hires introduced the first commercially available brand of root beer.
Native Americans used the sassafras tree, specifically, its bark and roots, to make homemade medicinal concoctions. The roots of the sassafras tree, when extracted, are believed to be good for addressing illnesses related to the urinary tract and other ailments like syphilis, high blood pressure, arthritis, bronchitis, and gout.
Although contrary to its traditional recipe from the Native Americans, commercial root beer is no longer made with the sassafras tree root as the Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of it for health purposes and safety concerns.
‘Root Beer’ and Alcohol
Would you believe it that when Charles Elmer Hires wanted to sell his version of root beer, he wanted to call his brew “Root Tea,” seeing as it was like tea brewed from the roots of a tree but to make it more marketable and appealing to his target market which was coal miners, he rebranded it to the now known “Root Beer?” The question, though, is, is there any alcohol in the recipe of root beer itself?
The answer to that is, ‘No’ because when traditional root beer was made by the Native Americans, they did not add alcohol to it and even the commercially sold root beer of Charles Elmer Hires did not intentionally have alcohol in it, which continued as throughout the lifespan of root beer itself but there are exceptions of course as one can easily pair up a good ol’ root beer with some bourbon, rum and even vodka and create delicious beverages of your own.
Health and Nutrition Facts of ‘Root Beer
Commercially available root beer now is quite different from the traditional ones that used to circulate in the market during the time of Charles Elmer Hires, who invented it. The ones that are on the market now have very high levels of high-fructose corn syrup or HFCS, which means that it is a drink that shouldn’t be consumed by diabetics and those watching their sugar intake.
There is also the presence of artificial flavorings, caramel, and caffeine, which makes it a drink that will keep your energy up unless, of course, you don’t want to, then, it would be best not to consume one. Some claim that root beers also contain a few vitamins like vitamin C, B12, E, and B6, as well as Zinc, Potassium, Calcium, and Phosphorus. But of course, if you’re after to upgrade your intake of vitamins and minerals, a root beer might not be the best source for you to go grab.
Can Kids Drink Root Beer?
If you are looking for a short and uncomplicated answer, then it is, “Yes,” because there is no alcohol in the commercially available root beers now unless intentionally added by someone for their enjoyment. But if you consider everything about what you just learned about root beer now, then it might not be so wise to let your kids drink root beer too much.
Why? Well, first off, it’s full of sugar; kids and sugar don’t mix well, if you know what I mean. Some kids may get too much of a sugar rush and run about places, throw tantrums, and whatnot. Believe me, there is nothing more exhausting than keeping up with a child who is fully charged with that kind of energy, and then they throw crazy tantrums just as the fuzz from the sugar dies down.
It is just too much drama. Secondly, if that doesn’t scare you, how about the prospects of giving your child type 2 diabetes because of all that sugar in that drink? Once again, parents and guardians have the responsibility of taking care of their children, so the decision is yours, but always keep in mind that even in sugary concoctions like ‘root beers’ and ‘sodas’, there is good in moderate consumption.
Alternatives to Drinking Root Beer
Having a root beer or soda once in a while is okay, but if you don’t want your children to develop a taste for it, here are some natural sources of sugar that can help with that sweet tooth craving. Use natural sweeteners like agave, coconut sugar, honey, and stevia as substitutes for refined sugar.
These are all naturally sweet and won’t immediately spike up your sugar levels. You can prepare drinks and snacks with these natural sweeteners. Of course, the world is so big, and your child is bound to run into ‘root beers’ and ‘sodas.’
A good trick would be to let them taste a little but explain that they can’t always have it. It would also be a good practice if everyone in the house agrees to follow the rules about sugary confections and drinks. Everyone should be sensitive enough not to drink ‘root beers’ and ‘sodas’ in front of the children as the rules you have set will be moot and useless. All in all, a little bit of root beer is not all that bad.
I am a passionate beer connoisseur with a deep appreciation for the art and science of brewing. With years of experience tasting and evaluating various beers, I love to share my opinions and insights with others and I am always eager to engage in lively discussions about my favorite beverage.