Parents, there’s new research on healthy drinks for kids. What Should My Child Drink? Big Changes Ahead. This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
What Should My Child Drink? Big Changes Ahead
Back in my day…
Don’t you love hearing those stories from the good old days? You know, the ones where your grandparents walked uphill in the snow both ways and parented their kids MUCH differently than we do today. But the funny thing about time is, we’re always learning something new when it comes to parenting. At least I am.
I was today years old when I learned that I had been giving my kids the wrong “healthy drinks” for years. Because as of today, there are new recommendations for healthy drinks for kids. Agreed upon by 4 major national health organizations, researched by an expert panel, and finally released into the public by Healthy Eating Research, we can finally answer “What Should My Child Drink?” with the latest and most up to date information, so your kids and grow up as healthy as they can be.
Why Did the Recommendations Change? Why Now?
Milk, juice, water, formula. I thought I knew everything when it came to healthy beverage choices for kids. I was pediatric nurse, after all. It was my job to know. But just like anything in medicine, research is always changing, always evolving. And what I thought I knew was best for kids growing up – has quickly shifted. So why now?
It’s true that we have had recommendations of healthy drinks for kids for years. Many different guidelines or recommendations do exist for beverages – but there are gaps in either the age ranges covered or the types of beverages. This leads to confusion among health care providers, parents and caregivers. This is especially imperative during the early years – that 0-5 year old range – when growth and development in children is occurring rapidly.
So 4 of the nation’s leading health organizations got together to fill the gaps. No more confusion. No more blurred lines. This is the first time groups like 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 the above organizations as well as a scientific advisory committed to conduct a review of 50+ existing documents from domestic and international bodies on recommendations and guidance for beverage consumption in early childhood, along with reviews of existing literature and meetings, to develop these consensus recommendations.
What Should My Child Drink?
I have to admit, it stings a little to know that I gave my kids the wrong healthy drinks for years. As a mom and a nurse, I feel like maybe I should have known better. Both of my kids are now older than 5-years old. But as a mom and a nurse, I feel it’s my duty to make sure that YOU know. So, what should my child drink?
- 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 sugar-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. No more than 4-6 oz. of 100% fruit juice per day for 4-5 year olds.
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.).
Why Should We Care About These Changes?
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. 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. So it’s no wonder that these 4 national health organizations have focused on the 0-5 year old range – the most imperative time for kids growing up the most rapidly.
I’ve Been Doing It Wrong. What Can I Do Now?
Is it too late? Maybe you’re a parent like me who introduced juice too early or gave your child way too many flavored milks. Whether you’re a first time parent or a veteran with 2 or 3 kids under your belt, these guidelines can help you make changes to get your kids on a path to optimal health. And, the important thing to note here is that these guidelines are doable. You and your kids CAN change. The HealthyDrinksHealthyKids.org website has a lot of practical tips for parents and caregivers to make implementing these guidelines into your daily lives as easy as possible. Here are some examples:
- If your kids are hooked on juice or flavored milk, you can wean them off from too much by gradually making changes, such as adding water to juice or adding plain milk to flavored milk, so that their taste buds will gradually adjust and learn to like the less sweet varieties.
- Set boundaries now about when kids can have certain beverages. For example, as kids age, the panel recommends that they only consume milk at meal times, and water in between for thirst. This helps to limit the total amount of milk they’re consuming, while also ensuring they’re getting enough water every day.
- And to entice them to drink more water, you can add fresh sliced fruit to plain water (like these 8 infused water ideas that kids will actually drink), or squeezing lemons/limes (for example) into water.
The Point Is…
Parenting changes every day. Research changes every day. And sometimes, we learn that we still have things to learn. But that doesn’t mean that it’s too late to change some habits, to encourage healthy living, and to raise our kids to be the best possible human beings that they can be. I’m a mother of two and I STILL have so much to learn about parenting. What should my child drink? Even though my kids are older than 5-years old, you’d better believe that we are always encouraging water as our first choice of healthy beverage.
And sometimes milk, because milk mustaches.
It’s not too late. Make the choice. Make the change. Make the difference in your child’s life today.
I’ve been compensated by Healthy Eating Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to write about the new beverage recommendations. Even though this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own. Be sure to follow Raising Whasians via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube for more parenting tips, easy family recipes, kids crafts and travel.
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