Sip, Sip, Hooray! Start Healthy Drinking Choices at a Young Age

24 Sep Sip, Sip, Hooray! Start Healthy Drinking Choices at a Young Age

girl drinking a drink through a straw from a can

By Ruben J. Rucoba, MD

There’s been a lot of attention paid to which foods are healthiest to give to children, but less so to the liquids they drink. A new set of guidelines was recently created by a panel of experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and distributed by the nutrition research organization Healthy Eating Research.

The panel reviewed existing recommendations and also surveyed research studies on liquid consumption. The recommendations are just for children from birth to 5 years old, and emphasize that fluids are often a source of what are called “empty calories:” drinks that provide no real nutritional value, but are loaded with calories, often from sugar.

This is a summary of the panel’s recommendations:

  • All children: should avoid drinking flavored milks, dairy formulas, plant-based/non-dairy milks*, caffeinated beverages and sugar- and low-calorie sweetened beverages.
  • 0-6 months: Breast milk or infant formula
  • 6-12 months: Breast milk or infant formula; small amount of drinking water once solids are introduced; avoid fruit juice.
  • 12-24 months: Whole milk and drinking water. Fruit juice is discouraged (better to serve whole fruit), but if given, limit fruit juice to no more than 4 oz per day.
  • 2-5 years: Milk and water (encourage skim or low-fat milk); limit fruit juice (consider adding extra water to the juice).

*Plant-based/non-dairy milks are discouraged for the general population because they are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk. Some children with milk allergy or intolerance may require these alternatives, but consult your pediatrician before using these.


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