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New Guidelines on Healthy Beverages for Young Children Keeping Little Ones Healthy Every Sip of the Way

Updated October 28, 2019
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Jennifer Folliard

SDSU Extension Family & Community Health Field Specialist

What your child drinks is just as important as the food they eat each day. Recently, new recommendations were released to help parents and caregivers navigate this important time for children. The recommendations were developed through a collaboration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association.

The habits that children start at a young age often shape their habits throughout the course of their lives. Drinks are often hidden sources of added sugar and calories, so it is important to know what you should be consuming. By following these recommendations, we can improve the health and well-being of infants and young children in the United States.

A cup-shaped infographic with five levels outlining beverage guidlines for age groups from 5 and under to 2 to five years.

Research shows that what children drink from birth through age five has a big impact on their health – both now and for years to come. While every child is different, the nation’s leading health organizations agree that for most kids, the following recommendations can help to set children on a path for healthy growth and development. As always, consult with your health care provider about your child’s individual needs.

See the full guidelines and learn more at the Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids website.

Notes: Evidence indicates that, with the exception of fortified soy milk, many plant-based/non-dairy milk alternatives lack key nutrients found in cow’s milk. Our bodies may not absorb nutrients in these non-dairy milks as well as they can from regular milk. Unsweetened and fortified non-dairy milks may be a good choice if a child is allergic to dairy milk, lactose intolerant, or whose family has made specific dietary choices such as abstaining from animal products. Be sure to consult with your health care provider to choose the right milk substitute to ensure that your child is still getting adequate amounts of the key nutrients found in milk, such as protein, calcium, and vitamin D, which are essential for healthy growth and development.

    Age 0-6 Months

    • Drink: Young infants only need breast milk or infant formula in order to get the proper fluids and nutrition.
    • Avoid: Juice, cow’s milk or other milk alternative (soy, almond, etc.), transition or weaning formulas, caffeine drinks (soda, tea, coffee, etc.), sugar sweetened drinks and low-calorie drinks (regular or diet soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.)

    Age 6-12 months

    • Drink: At this age infants will still get most of their nutrition and fluid needs from breastmilk or formula. Once solid foods have been introduced, it is okay to add a few sips of water at mealtimes in order to develop cup drinking skills and learn how to like the taste of water, which can take time.
    • Avoid: Juice, cow’s milk or other milk alternative (soy, almond, etc.), transition or weaning formulas, caffeine drinks (soda, tea, coffee, etc.), sugar sweetened drinks and low-calorie drinks (regular or diet soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.)

    Age 12-24 Months

    • Drink: Children should drink 1-4 cups of water each day. This can vary depending on how active they are, the weather, and the amount of fluid they get from other beverages. Always have water available for a child to drink throughout the day. Children at this age can be introduced to plain, pasteurized, whole milk. It is recommended that they drink 2-3 cups per day. This can vary depending on the amount of solid food they are consuming.
    • Limit: 100% fruit juice is okay for children to consume at this age. However, they should not consume more than ½ cup (4 ounces) per day. It is best if children meet their fruit requirements from whole fruit that is fresh, canned, or frozen. If too much fruit juice is consumed it can lead to dental cavities and weight gain.
    • Avoid: Milk alternative (soy, almond, etc.), transition or weaning formulas, caffeine drinks (soda, tea, coffee, etc.), sugar sweetened drinks and low-calorie drinks (regular or diet soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.)

    Age 2-3 Years

    • Drink: 1-4 cups of water are recommended per day. The amount of water can vary depending on how active the child is, the weather, and the amount of fluid from other beverages. Water should be their main source of fluid intake throughout the day. Up to 2 cups of plain, pasteurized, fat free or low-fat milk is recommended. Lower fat milks help children stay within a normal calorie intake while still getting the added nutrients from milk.
    • Limit: 100% fruit juice is okay for children to consume at this age. However, they should not consume more than ½ cup (4 ounces) per day. It is best if children meet their fruit requirements from whole fruit that is fresh, canned, or frozen. If too much fruit juice is consumed it can lead to dental cavities and weight gain.
    • Avoid: Milk alternative (soy, almond, etc.), transition or weaning formulas, caffeine drinks (soda, tea, coffee, etc.), sugar sweetened drinks and low-calorie drinks (regular or diet soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.)

    Age 4-5 Years

    • Drink: 1 ½ to 5 cups of water are recommended per day. The amount of water can vary depending on how active the child is, the weather, and the amount of fluid from other beverages. Water should be their main source of fluid intake throughout the day.
      • Up to 2 ½ cups of plain, pasteurized fat free or low-fat milk is recommended per day.
    • Limit: ½ to ¾ cups (4-6 ounces) of 100% fruit juice is the maximum recommended amount per day for this age group. It is best if a child’s fruit intake comes from whole fruit. If too much fruit juice it is consumed it can lead to dental cavities and weight gain.
    • Avoid: Milk alternative (soy, almond, etc.), transition or weaning formulas, caffeine drinks (soda, tea, coffee, etc.), sugar sweetened drinks and low-calorie drinks (regular or diet soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.)

    It’s important to lead by example! What’s healthy for children is healthy for adults too. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and limit sugar sweetened beverages such as soda and energy drinks in order to ensure you and your family make healthy choices.

    Sources:

    1. Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids.
    2. Leading Health Organizations Support First-Ever Consensus Recommendations to Encourage Young Children’s Consumption of Healthy Drinks. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.