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What Should Kids Drink?

May 2020

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

To all parents, grandparents, teachers and medical professionals.  Our society needs to get a handle on what kids should be drinking!  Recently our leading medical and nutrition organizations have recommended breast milk, infant formula, water, and plain milk as beverage mainstays within a new set of comprehensive beverage recommendations for children.  These recommendations are set by age (birth through age 5). Nutrition experts would like to see adults and their children be cautious against beverages that include added sugars.  Expecially for young children, they should avoid flavored milks (e.g., chocolate, strawberry) and sugar- and low-calorie sweetened beverages.  Many beverages that are on the market are targeted to children such as toddler formulas, caffeinated beverages, and plant-based/non-dairy milks such as almond, rice, and oat beverages which provide no unique nutritional value.

Early childhood is an important time to start shaping healthy nutrition habits and promoting beverage consumption that improves and adds healthful nutrients to a child’s diet.  It is important that caregivers, health care and early care education providers, policymakers, and beverage industry representatives set a clear list of objective, science-based recommendations for healthy drink consumption. Consumers can then use this opportunity to improve the health and well-being of infants and young children throughout the United States.”

These recommendations were developed as part of an unprecedented collaboration by experts at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy), American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Heart Association (AHA) under the leadership of Healthy Eating Research (HER), a leading nutrition research organization with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

“From the time children are born through those first few years, beverages are a significant source of calories and nutrients and can have a big impact on health long into the future,” said Richard Besser, MD, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Families deserve clear and consistent guidance on what their young children should drink and what they should avoid. These recommendations from our country’s leading medical and nutrition organizations will help families raise healthy children.”

These leading health organizations support the very first consensus recommendations to encourage young children’s consumption of healthy drinks and they are:  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association.  They all recommend breast milk, infant formula, water and plain milk for babies and kids.  Take small steps to drinking healther beverages by following the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Family & Community Health Sciences Fact Sheets: Added Sugars: Hidden in Plain View and Build a Better Beverage. Both publications will give ideas for introducing healthy beverages to your family including kids and teens.

Parents, you need to follow these same suggestions! Keep your family healthy and set a good example by promoting, purchasing and drinking healthy beverages yourself. Take these small steps for improving the health of yourself and your family.