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Healthy Drinks for Kids

There's a lot of talk about getting kids to eat healthy foods, but what about getting them on board with healthy drinks? What kids drink can drastically affect the amount of calories consumed, as well as the amount of calcium needed to build strong bones.

Serve Water and Milk

For kids of all ages, water and milk are the best choices, so let them flow. Not only is water calorie-free, but drinking it teaches kids to accept a low-flavor, no-sugar beverage as a thirst-quencher. Because a cup of milk has 300 milligrams of calcium, it can be a big contributor to your child's daily needs.

Here's how much calcium kids need each day:

  • toddlers (ages 1 to 3 years): 700 milligrams of calcium daily
  • kids (ages 4 to 8 years): 1000 milligrams
  • older kids (ages 9 to 18 years): 1,300 milligrams

The current dietary guidelines for milk or equivalent dairy products or fortified soy beverages are:

  • Kids ages 2 to 3 should drink 2 cups (480 milliliters) every day.
  • Kids 4 through 8 should have 2½ cups (600 milliliters) per day.
  • Kids 9 and older should have 3 cups (720 milliliters) per day.

Choose fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk products most of the time.

When kids drink too much juice, juice drinks, sports drinks, and soda, these beverages can crowd out the milk they need. Sugary drinks also can pile on the calories.

This chart shows the calories and sugar in different beverages:

DRINK SIZE CALORIES SUGAR
Water 8 oz (240 ml) 0 0 g
Low-fat milk 8 oz (240 ml) 100 11 g
100% orange juice 8 oz (240 ml) 110 22 g
Juice drink (10% fruit juice) 8 oz (240 ml) 150 38 g
Powdered drink mix (with sugar added) 8 oz (240 ml) 90 24 g

Put Limits on Juice

If your child likes juice, be sure to serve 100% juice. Also follow these recommended limits:

  • up to 6 months old: no juice
  • 6-12 months old: no more than 2-4 ounces (120 milliliters) per day, always served in a cup
  • 1-6 years old: 4-6 ounces (120-180 milliliters) of juice per day
  • 7-18 years old: 8-12 ounces (240-360 milliliters) of juice per day

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