What healthy drinks should I offer my children?
Recently four major health organizations came together to support the first-ever consensus recommendation about healthy drinks for kids. There are so many drinks available in stores these days, and many of them are advertised as kid’s drinks. Unfortunately, many drinks that are advertised for kids are not actually healthy for kids. I know it was always a challenge for me as a parent, trying to combat the advertisements, as well as the availability of unhealthy drinks at every turn, from restaurants to soccer games. But it is important that we as parents make good choices for our children who are too young to make these choices for themselves.
Which organizations formed the consensus?
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentists
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Heart Association
Why are these new recommendations important?
The beverages that kids drink during the first few years of their lives are a significant source of calories and nutrients, and can have a large impact on their health, not only during childhood, but throughout adulthood as well. Early childhood is the ideal time to start shaping nutrition habits and promoting healthy nutritional choices, and this is just as important for beverages as it is for foods.
What are the new recommendations?
The recommendations are divided by age, from birth through age five. You can follow the link at the bottom of the page to read the full recommendations, but I can give you a summary here.
0-6 month old babies should drink:
- Breast milk
- Infant formula
6-12 month old babies should drink:
- Breast milk
- Infant formula
- A few sips of water during meal times with solid foods
12-24 month old babies should drink:
- Water – 1-4 cups of water daily, depending on the weather and how active they are
- Milk – Plain, pasteurized whole milk provides lots of nutrients which their growing bodies need. They should get 2-3 cups of whole milk per day.
2-3 years toddlers should drink:
- Water – 1-4 cups per day which varies depending on the weather and how active they are
- Milk – At this age, children should transition to low fat milk, either 1% milk or skim milk, about 2 cups per day.
- Very limited amount of 100% fruit juice – Only ½ cup (4 ounces) per day. You can add water to fruit juice in order to make a little bit go further. Instead of drinking fruit juice, children should be eating fruit (fresh, canned, or frozen) with NO added sugar. Even 100% fruit juice can cause dental cavities and unwanted weight gain.
4-5 year old kids should drink:
- Water – 1.5 to 5 cups of water a day, again depending on weather and activity level.
- Milk – Plain, pasteurized, low-fat milk, up to 2 ½ cups a day
- Very limited amount of 100% fruit juice – No more than ½ to ¾ cups (4-6 ounces) per day. Again, kids should be eating fruit without added sugars, rather than drinking juice.
For all age groups, kids should not drink anything that is not on the list of recommended drinks for their age, this includes:
- Flavored milks, like chocolate or strawberry milk
- Transition formulas, sometimes called toddler formulas or follow up formulas
- Plant-based milks such as almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, oat milk
- Drinks with caffeine, such as sodas, coffee, tea, energy drinks
- Carbonated drinks, such as sodas
- Sugar-sweetened drinks, or drinks sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners, such as sodas, fruit drinks, fruit-ades, sweetened waters, etc.
- Sports drinks or energy drinks – No kids should drink sports drinks, even if they are playing sports.
I would encourage you to read the full recommendations by following this link:
If you have any more questions just Ask Hanna, our health advisors are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor
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