Healthy Eating Research, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program that supports research on policy, systems, and environmental strategies that have potential to promote healthy eating in children, just released guidelines on the beverages kids should be drinking as they grow. Healthy Eating Research identified gaps between recommendations issued by other authoritative bodies in terms of which drinks are healthy and which to avoid. In response, HER convened a panel representing four national health and nutrition organizations to develop comprehensive recommendations for childhood beverage consumption.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association worked together to come to a consensus. HER now reports that all kids five years old and younger should avoid drinking flavored milks, toddler formulas, plant-based and nondairy milks, caffeinated beverages, and sugar- and low-calorie sweetened beverages. These drinks can really contribute to add sugar in kids’ diets while providing no nutritional value.
For newborns to babies who are six months old, breast milk or infant formula will provide all the nutrition they need. Babies 6-12 months old can have a small amount of water along with breast milk or formula once solid foods are introduced–just enough water to get them used to how it tastes. (A few sips at mealtime is all it takes, HER says!) Once your baby is one year old (and until he’s two), you can add whole milk to his diet. Whole milk has many nutritional benefits. Water is also important at this stage for hydration–but make sure it’s never flavored. If you want to give him juice, stick to 100% fruit juice with no added sugar. Giving him small pieces of actual fruit is a better bet.
For kids ages 2-5, stick to water and milk. Swap lower-fat milks such as skim or 1% for whole milk–kids don’t need full fat anymore. If you choose to give your child fruit juice, again, make sure it’s a small amount. HER recommends cutting juice with water to make a little go a long way.
For more information on beverage guidelines, as well as other research reports and findings about kids’ nutrition, visit the HER website.
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