Friday, March 2, 2012

Water or Juice? Milk or Soda? Healthiest Drinks for Your Child

girl drinking juiceWhat kid wouldn’t want to try your fizzy pink soda or foamy vanilla latte? While a taste here and there isn’t a big deal, it’s best to stick with the classics when it comes to daily drinks: milk, a little juice…and lots of plain ol’ water. Babies get most of the fl uids they need during the first year from breast milk or formula. But water is best for keeping kids older than 1 hydrated and healthy, and staving off fatigue, muscle weakness, and headaches. “Developing a taste for water is important because kids who consume too many sweetened beverages may come to expect that every drink should be sugary,” explains Nicolas Stettler, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition.
Here, the lowdown on all things liquid, and how often your child should sip:
Milk: Give whole milk to kids ages 1 to 2 (unless there’s a family history of obesity or heart disease, in which case reduced-fat milk can be considered, but talk with your pediatrician first). Fat-free milk is best after age 2; it has all the vitamin D and calcium your child needs, without the added calories.
Water: As needed, depending on activity level, climate, and weight . No H2O fans in your house? Try flavoring it with crushed berries , or decorate it with funny straws or ice cubes.
Once in a While
Vitamin and coconut waters: If you decide to offer one, choose a drink that’s sugar-free. Just know that these are simply tinted water with added vitamins (which kids usually get enough of in their regular diet).
Juice: Serve only 100 percent juice, without added sugar. Kids ages 1 to 6 years can have four to six ounces a day. “Too much adds a lot of calories and not as much fi ber as a piece of fruit,” says Dr. Stettler.
Almost Never
Soda, coffee, tea; energy and sports drinks: Soda is basically liquid candy, offering nothing of nutritional value. And caffeine (in coffee, tea, and most energy drinks) is a stimulant —plus, it’s addictive. “For a special occasion, a bit of soda is fine, but it shouldn’t be something kids drink with any regularity,” says Dr. Stettler.
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