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A Guide For Healthy Drink Recommendations

by Nellie

Disclosure: I was compensated by a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to write about the new beverage guidelines as well as drink recommendations. All my opinions are my own.

Every single family is different. We all have things in common like similar bedtimes, screen time usage, and even homework rules. We all have unique ways of raising our families. One thing we all have in common is that we want to raise our kids to be as healthy as possible.

With developing science we are all a bit more health conscious with our children. I had a conversation with my best friend last week about the sheer amount of juice we used to consume as kids. Since we played outside so much we drank a LOT of liquid whether it was juice or water, we weren’t too concerned about the amount of sugar intake, because we were kids.

This was no fault of our parents, but let’s be honest. Today we simply know better. We know the effects of kids ingesting a lot of sugar and you know what they say: “when you know better, you do better”.

Here is what you should know about healthy drink recommendations:

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association have made consistent recommendations for beverage consumption for children ages 0-5.
  • Healthy Eating Research convened an expert panel from these organizations to conduct a review of 50+ existing documents on recommendations and guidance for beverage consumption in early childhood to develop these consensus recommendations.

They determined that it is critically important to establish healthy patterns in early childhood to prevent future health issues, like dental cavities or diet-related diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes, and to ensure optimal development and overall health.

What does all of this mean? How much juice should our kids be drinking?

All kids 5 and under should avoid drinking flavored milks (e.g., chocolate, strawberry), toddler formulas, plant-based/non-dairy milks (e.g. almond, rice, oat)*, caffeinated beverages (e.g. soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks) and low-calorie sweetened beverages (e.g. “diet” or “light” drinks, including those sweetened with stevia or sucralose), as these beverages can be big sources of added sugars in young children’s diets and provide no unique nutritional value.

Babies 0-6 months: need only breast milk or infant formula.

Babies 6-12 months: in addition to breast milk or formula, offer small amounts of water once foods are introduced.

12-24 months: Whole Milk, water and small amount of 100% fruit juice to avoid added sugars (fruit is preferred). No more than 4 oz of 100% fruit juice per day.

2 – 5 years old: Milk (skim or 1%) and water, small amounts of 100% fruit juice (diluting it with some water is a good approach). No more than 4 oz of 100% fruit juice per day for 2-3 year olds.

4-5 Year olds: No more than 4-6 oz of 100% fruit juice per day

This is especially important for children of color

Black children are more likely to consume (sugar sweetened beverages) SSB than their white or Hispanic peers.  Some data suggest that among 18 to 24-month-olds, there are racial/ethnic disparities in the varieties of milk consumed. Among children ages 2 to 4 years, fewer black children consume cow’s milk than their white and Hispanic counterparts. FITS 2016 also found racial and ethnic disparities in juice consumption. Among 12 to 24-month-olds, Hispanic (55%) and black (56%) children were significantly more likely than white (37%) children to consume 100% juice.

Consumption patterns are similar in 2 to 4-year-olds, where Hispanic (45%) and black (47%) children were more likely than white (39%) children to consume 100% juice, but these differences did not reach statistical significance.

Related: 30 Healthy Recipes To Cook With Your Toddler

What does all of this mean?

Research shows that what children drink from birth through age five has a big impact on their health – both now and for years to come. The nation’s leading health organizations agree that for most kids, the following recommendations can help to set children on a path for healthy growth and development. As always, consult with your health care provider about your child’s individual needs (specific diets, allergies, intolerances, etc).

For more information on healthy drink recommendations for kids, be sure to check out the Healthy Beverage website at healthydrinkshealthykids.org.

Are you vigilant about your child’s juice intake?

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1 comment

Janine Huldie September 18, 2019 - 9:11 am

I had to learn this hard way with my second as she was a big juice drinker as a toddler/pre-school kid. She wouldn’t drink anything but juice for a bit and when she had a urine test at her physical back then it appeared she was either pre-diabetic or dehydrated. We fought her to drink water, but she finally did and thankfully it was a dehydration issue and not diabetes. So, I couldn’t agree with you more about following these guidelines and truly a very helpful article for all parents.


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