Research shows that what children drink – from birth through age 5 – can have a big impact on their health. With so many choices, it can be confusing to know which drinks are healthy and which ones to avoid. That’s why some of the nation’s leading health and nutrition experts came together to develop new recommendations to help parents choose what’s best for their kids. Those new guidelines were released this week. These recommendations were developed by experts at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), and the American Heart Association (AHA) under the leadership of Healthy Eating Research (HER), a leading nutrition research organization, and with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
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.
All children five and under should avoid drinking flavored milks (e.g., chocolate, strawberry), toddler formulas, plant-based/non-dairy milks (e.g., almond, rice, oat), caffeinated beverages (e.g., soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks) and sugar- and low-calorie sweetened beverages (e.g., “diet” or “light” drinks, including those sweetened with stevia or sucralose), as these beverages can be big sources of added sugars in young children’s diets and provide no unique nutritional value beyond eating a balanced diet and sticking to water and milk.
0–6 months: Babies need only breast milk or infant formula to get enough fluids and proper nutrition.
6–12 months: In addition to breast milk or infant formula, offer a small amount of drinking water once solid foods are introduced to help babies get familiar with the taste – just a few sips at mealtimes is all it takes. It’s best for children under 1 not to drink juice. Even 100% fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit.
12–24 months: It’s time to add whole milk, which has many essential nutrients, along with plain drinking water for hydration. A small amount of juice is fine, think a 1/2 cup, but make sure it’s 100% fruit juice to avoid added sugar. Better yet, serve small pieces of real fruit, which are more nutritious and satisfying.
2–5 years: Milk and water are the go-to beverages. Look for milk with less fat than whole milk, like skim (non-fat) or low-fat (1%). If you choose to serve 100% fruit juice, stick to a small amount, and remember adding water can make a little go a long way!
You can find the full recommendations and learn more at HealthyDrinksHealthyKids.org.