Healthy Drinks for Kids
Looking down the grocery store aisles, you'll see cartons of milk, bottles of juice, and many other products packaged with attractive labels. But, how do you know if you are selecting a healthy drink for your kids? Here are some tips for your next trip to the grocery store.
Milk is a great source of calcium for your kids. Children aged 2-3 years should consume two servings of milk or dairy products per day. Children aged 4-8 years should have 2 1/2 servings, while kids aged 9-18 should consume about three servings. One serving equals 8 ounces of milk, which contains about 400 milligrams (mg) of calcium. It is recommended, though, that children under one year should drink only breast milk or iron-fortified formula. Most children aged 1-2 should drink whole milk, and children aged 2-5 should be switched to low-fat or fat-free milk. This transition can occur gradually, but is important to your child's health because whole milk is high in calories and saturated fat.
If your child does not enjoy the taste of milk, try flavoring it with chocolate or strawberry powders or syrups. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that kids who drank flavored milk actually drank more milk without significantly increasing their sugar intake.
If your child is lactose intolerant or if you prefer soy or rice milk as an alternative, check the label to ensure it has the nutrients your child needs. These beverages do not naturally contain calcium or other nutrients in dairy milk, but some varieties are fortified. Also, work with your child’s pediatrician to come up with a diet that meets your child’s calcium needs.
If your child is longing for something sweet to drink, 100% fruit juices are healthier alternative than sodas, fruit drinks, or sweet, fruity caffeinated teas. However, pediatricians warn against allowing your child to overindulge in fruit juices, as their high carbohydrate (sugar) content contribute to conditions like obesity and tooth decay. In addition, fruit juices often contain only minimal amounts of the protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, or dietary fiber. Too much fruit juice can take the place of more nutrient-rich foods, such as milk and whole fruit.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children 1-6 years old should limit their fruit juice intake to 4-6 ounces (118-177 milliliters) per day. For children aged 7-18, juice intake should be 8-12 ounces (236-354 milliliters) per day. Juice should also not be introduced to an infants diet before 6 months of age. The AAP also suggests you encourage your child to choose whole fruit over fruit juices to meet their recommended daily fruit intake.
Water is always a healthy choice. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture's MyPlate initiative encourages everyone to drink more water and leave the sugary drinks behind.
But, if your kids are like most of us, they are not getting water. If your child is active, he will need even more. Fortunately, water contains no fat, no sugar, no caffeine, and no calories. How much water each child needs varies greatly due to activity level and climate. Adequate water consumption does affect our bodies, right down to the cellular level. If your child is not fond of water, try mixing water and fruit juice to add some flavor. Also, many healthy food choices are good sources of water, particularly, fresh fruits and vegetables.
What Can You Do?
Obviously, it will be easier to monitor your child’s beverage options when she is too young to voice an opinion. But your child may be more likely to continue healthy beverage habits into adulthood if she has learned them at home. One of the most effective ways of teaching healthy choices is by being a role model. Try opting for milk or water over coffee, sodas, or other beverages.
American Dietetic Association
Canada's Food Guide
Dietitians of Canada
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. The use and misuse of fruit juice in pediatrics. Pediatrics. 2001;107:1210-1213
ChooseMyPlate.gov. United States Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/. Updated June 14, 2011. Accessed June 15, 2011.
How much food from the dairy group is needed daily? United States Department of Agriculture, ChooseMyPlate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgroups/dairy_amount.aspx. Updated June 4, 2011. Accessed June 23, 2011.
Some health food milk alternatives don’t provide enough nutrition for toddlers. The Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/. Accessed February 11, 2003
Water, water, everywhere. Food Literacy Partners Program website. Available at: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/fammed/customcf/resources/nutrition/hydration.pdf. Published 2004. Accessed April 11, 2011.
Why drinking water is the way to go. The Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/food/water_p6.html. Accessed February 11, 2003.
Why milk matters now for children and teens. Genesee Country, New York website. Available at: http://www.co.genesee.ny.us/dpt/publichealth/milkmatters.html. Accessed April 11, 2011.
Last reviewed April 2011 by Brian Randall, MD
Last updated Updated: 6/23/2011
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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