Researchers are hoping that what they have found will encourage youngsters to ditch sugary beverages and diet drinks, in favour of good old water. In comparison, their peers who had low-calorie sweet drinks - at least 4 ounces for the day - consumed 200 more calories, on average.
Yet, despite the popularity, scientists still don't know for sure how sweeteners affect a child's total calorie intake over the course of the day.
The study, which took place at George Washington University, looked at the diets of 7,026 children over five years.
Kids and teenagers reported what they ate and drank during a 24-hour period.
A new study has found a link between drinking diet sodas and higher consumption of both calories and sugar.
Kids who'd had at least 4 ounces of water, and little to no sugary or artificially sweetened drinks, were considered water consumers.More news: Sinclair Acquiring 21 Regional Sports Networks From Disney
The findings suggest that the best choice for kids and teens is water. They consumed less daily sugar for the day - including added sugars - than those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages.
For everyday people, the low-calorie drinks seem intuitively healthier: excess calories and sugar are linked to poor health outcomes, so substituting alternative sweeteners to cut back on both makes sense on paper.
The highest calorie intakes were reported in children and teens that consumed both low-calorie sweetened beverages and sugary beverages.
"These results do not challenge the existing evidence that [low-calorie sweetened beverages] are one of many helpful tools in weight management and overall calorie reduction", the group said in a statement. This study was not created to show that drinking low or zero-calorie beverages causes unhealthy weight gain.
But the science is less clear: while many studies indicate that low-calorie beverages lead to lower calorie consumption overall, as you'd expect, other research suggests the opposite.
While the role of diet beverages in weight management remains controversial, experts have weighed in with some practical advice for parents and kids.More news: $20 mn settlement reached in US police killing of Australian
The American Heart Association recently advised, "against prolonged consumption of low-calorie sweetened beverages by children".
Sylvetsky agrees with that conclusion.
"We weren't able to look at overall diet quality", she said.
Dr Sylvetsky suggests sparkling water with just a dash of pure fruit juice or water with fruit pieces.
Researchers from George Washington University in Washington DC carried out the research as part of ongoing work on the drawbacks of soft drinks.
The Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the Milken Institute SPH funded the research.More news: Upper House reaffirms strong commitment to press freedom