Thoughtful Parenting: What should young children drink?

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At a glance

Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0

■ 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables

■ 2 or fewer hours of recreational screen time

■ 1 or more hours of physical activity

■ 0 sugary drinks

Online: www.letsgo.org

Source: LiveWell Northwest Colorado

— The best drinks for children of all ages are milk and water. Water is the most important nutrient for active children. Between 70 to 80 percent of a child’s body is made up of water. Children should drink water throughout the day.

Although dairy products are a great source of calcium, they also are the biggest sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in children’s diets. Children ages 1 to 2 should be drinking whole milk or breast milk. Preschoolers should drink 2 cups of low-fat or nonfat milk (or equivalent dairy products) every day. Try to avoid premixed chocolate or strawberry drinks, which often contain considerably more calories, sugar and fat than milk you flavor yourself.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits for infants younger than 6 months. In addition, it offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit for infants older than 6 months. Since juice has a significant amount of sugar, it is recommended that children ages 1 to 6 have no more than one serving (4 to 6 ounces) of 100 percent juice each day, and older children should be limited to 8 to 12 ounces per day. Fruit drinks are not nutritionally equal to fruit juice. Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages such as fruit drinks should be avoided. Reminder: The recommendation for added sugar in a child’s diet is no more than 3 teaspoons (12 grams) per day.

Sugar and calorie content of commonly served 8-ounce drinks:

Water: 0 grams of sugar, 0 calories

Low-fat milk: 11 grams of sugar, 100 calories

100 percent orange juice: 22 grams of sugar, 110 calories

10 percent fruit juice drink: 38 grams of sugar, 150 calories

Powered drink mix: 24 grams of sugar, 90 calories

Soda: 27 grams of sugar, 100 calories.

Tips:

■ Provide water and low-fat milk as the drink of choice.

■ Be a role model by drinking water or milk.

■ Offer your child fruit instead of fruit juice.

Barb Parnell is the LiveWell Northwest Colorado community coordinator. She can be reached at bparnell@nwcovna.org.

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