Drinking is a vital part of children’s healthy nutrition. What they drink can determine how they grow and whether or not they become overweight. Drinks should be low in sugar and additives. Some drinks have plenty of calories but very little nutrition. A natural drink such as water is the drink of choice for healthy toddlers and preschoolers. Here are some facts about drinks to help you make the best choice for your child.
- Water is the most important nutrient for the body.
- You can live much longer without food than without water.
- The body is mostly water, and it uses water up quickly.
- All liquids are not equal–some drinks take liquid away.
- Water is the drink of choice for healthy toddlers and preschoolers.
- Have lots of sugar (carbohydrates) and calories.
- Have acids that may erode the teeth.
- Are really just another type of soft drink.
- Use them only when a child has been doing continual hard exercise for 90 minutes or more.
Electrolyte Replacement Drinks
Electrolyte replacement drinks, such as Pedialyte® (for infants and toddlers), are for children with certain health problems and should not be used unless recommended by the child’s doctor.
- Too much juice can lead to diarrhea and tooth decay.
- Juice is mainly a natural sugar. It tells a child’s brain she is full and can spoil her appetite.
- Juice does not have the same nutrients as whole fruit.
- Children should have no more than six ounces of juice per day.
- Many juices are really sugar-sweetened drinks with only a small portion of juice or none at all. The label must say “100% juice” for it to have no added sugar.
Soda and Sugar-Sweetened Drinks
- There is a direct link between sugar sweetened drinks and childhood obesity.
- Sodas have nothing but calories from sugar.
- They tend to dehydrate a person.
- Drinks with caffeine tend to dehydrate and are linked to inattention, hyperactivity and sleeplessness in young children.
- Caffeine is also addictive.
- Milk is critical for strong bones and teeth.
- Whole milk is very high in fat and can increase calories.
- Skim milk has all the nutrients of whole milk with no fat and fewer calories.
- Toddlers and preschoolers need two cups of milk per day. Too little milk or too much milk can cause health problems.
|Under 12 months
|Breast milk or formula only
|Age 1-2 years
|Whole milk only
|2 cups per day only
|2 years and up
|Skim or 1% milk only
|2 cups per day only
Consult a doctor or nutritionist for a child’s diet. Alternate sources of calcium and vitamin D:
- Calcium fortified juices
- Calcium fortified breads
- Other products fortified with calcium and vitamin D