How Healthy Drinks Lead to Healthy Kids
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How Healthy Drinks Lead to Healthy Kids
When you’re married to a dentist, eating right isn’t just about taking care of your health—you have to take care of those pearly whites too! Bobby and I have tried to instill good eating and brushing habits into our four littles since they were tiny, but kids will be kids. Sometimes you need to remind them to brush their teeth, eat their vegetables and chill on the soda. This is even more important when they’re toddlers and just building their eating and drinking habits. For Baby Brody, making sure he’s building good habits starts now. Which means goodbye, Minute Maid. Hello, raw juice.
Trust me, even after four kids, I’m still learning how to better my family’s health. It’s an ongoing process and I always want to learn more. To give parents clear health guidelines on what tots should be drinking, Healthy Eating Research created an expert panel for health recommendations for children ages zero through five. The panel was formed with representatives from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, as well as a scientific advisory committee. Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but they know what they’re talking about when it comes to your kid’s health (and teeth!).
Establish Good Habits Early
When our babies are little, it’s the best time to establish healthy habits that will stay with them throughout their lives. I can’t say my kids will never drink soda or that they won’t sip on those high fructose corn syrup fruit juices from time to time, but it’s best to start them on a healthy path now. Establishing healthy patterns early can prevent future health issues, like dental cavities or diet-related diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
And all of this research shows that what children drink from birth through age five actually has a major influence on their overall health. Because kids are like sponges, the habits they learn now will influence their growth and development as they get older. Of course, talk with your doctor about your child’s specific needs, especially if they have dietary restrictions, food allergies or food intolerances.
Many infants consume milk and 100 percent juice before their first birthday, leading to nutrition deficiencies.
This Is What Your Kids Should Drink
So what should your kids be drinking? I know they need to eat their fruits and veggies, but what they’re drinking at dinnertime is just as important. Basically, all kids five and under should avoid drinking flavored milks, toddler formulas, plant-based or non-dairy milks, caffeinated beverages (not even green tea!), and “sugar-free” or “low-calorie” beverages that are sweetened with fake sugars. These drinks can be big sources of added sugars in your child’s diet and provide almost no nutritional value. Keep these things in mind when your kids are thirsty:
- Babies 0-6 months: 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 a small amount of 100 percent fruit juice to avoid added sugars (fruit is preferred). No more than 4 oz of 100 percent fruit juice per day. Try diluting it with some water for a healthier option.
- 2-5 years old: Milk (skim or 1 percent) and water. Small amounts of 100 percent fruit juice. No more than 4 oz of 100 percent fruit juice per day for 2-3 year olds. No more than 4-6 oz of 100 percent fruit juice per day for 4-5 year olds. Again, diluting it with some water is a good approach.
Keep Everything in Balance
We’re big water drinkers in the Schaffer household. The kids love seltzer water and sometimes we jazz is up with some fruit and cucumber slices! When we want fruit juice we make our own raw juice—beet juice is a favorite (especially if I add in a few apples to sweeten it up!)—and make sure to keep it healthy. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like to drink a Dr. Pepper every now and then. You know what’s best for your children and their health. But whether you’re a first-time parent or have a whole troop like Bobby and me, it’s great to have science-backed guidelines to help you.
What do your kids like to drink? Let me know in the comments below!
For children ages 1-5, plant-based milks may be useful for those with allergies or intolerances to dairy, but this should be done in consultation with a pediatrician to make sure that your child gets the nutrients he or she needs from another source.