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. The United States Department of Agriculture offers these recommendations of how much milk to drink:
- 2-3 years old: 2 cups (Note: 1 cup = 8 ounces or 236 milliliters)
- 4-8 years old: 2-½ cups
- 9 years old and up: 3 cups
Have your child drink fat-free, unflavored milk after age 2. If your child is used to drinking whole milk, slowly transition to low-fat milk. Unflavored milk is also a great choice because it does not have any sugar added.
Milk is a great way to help your child get calcium. One cup of milk contains about 300 milligrams (mg) of calcium. If your child is lactose intolerant or if you prefer to give your child soy or rice milk, 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 doctor to come up with a diet that meets your child’s calcium needs.
Note: Babies under 1 year of age should only drink breast milk or iron-fortified formula.
If your child is longing for something sweet to drink, 100% fruit juices are a 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 natural sugar content contribute to conditions like obesity and tooth decay .
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 infant's 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 US Department of Agriculture's Choose My Plate initiative encourages everyone to drink more water and leave the sugary drinks behind.
If your child is active, more water will be needed. 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 such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
What Can You Do?
Obviously, it will be easier to monitor your young child’s beverage options. But your child may be more likely to continue healthy beverage habits into adulthood if they are learned early at home. One of the most effective ways of teaching healthy choices is by being a role model. Try opting for low-fat milk or water over coffee, sodas, or other beverages.
- Michael Woods, MD
- Reviewed: 03/2016
- Updated: 03/02/2016
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