When you hand your kids a glass of milk and say "drink this," do they turn their head and look for a soft drink or glass of chocolate milk?
Does a glass of water always get turned into sweet tea, fruit punch or other sweetened drink with added sugar and calories?
If so, you are not alone.
Learn why extra calories in drinks can contribute to childhood obesity problems and what kinds of drinks you should be offering your kids.
1. White Milk
After they wean from breastmilk or baby formula, most toddlers start to drink pasteurized cow's milk. Unfortunately, it isn't always white milk. Some get hooked on drinking flavored milk.
In addition to added sugar, chocolate milk and strawberry milk can have lots of added calories, which most kids don't need.
While a glass of white milk (whole cow's milk) has 150 calories and 12g of sugar, depending on the flavoring you choose, a glass of chocolate milk might have 250 calories and 32g of sugar. Even if you use a "lite" or reduced sugar chocolate or strawberry syrup or powder, you are still going to add about 10g of sugar and 45 extra calories to what by itself would be a very nutritious drink.
2. Low-Fat Milk
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that most kids drink nonfat or low-fat dairy products.
Compared to whole milk, which has 150 calories, including 72 calories from fat, a glass of low-fat 1% milk has only about 100 calories and 21 calories from fat.
Nonfat milk (or skim milk) has only about 80 calories.
Most parents should switch their kids to low-fat milk once they are 2 years old. Some high-risk toddlers, including those who are already overweight or are at risk for becoming overweight, can switch as early as 12 months if they aren't breastfeeding anymore. Many start with reduced fat 2% milk, though. It has about 120 calories and 43 calories from fat. You can then make your way to low-fat milk and nonfat milk as your child gets older.
Everyone likely has a mother, grandmother or some other family member who pushed the idea that you had to drink eight glasses of water each day.
The glasses rule is usually thought to be a medical myth and could be outright dangerous for younger children, in whom eight glasses of water a day could cause water intoxication.
How much water should they drink?
Most kids should drink three to four glasses of milk each day and a limited amount of fruit juice. They can then drink water when they are thirsty. In addition to not having any calories, fluoridated water can help keep your child's teeth healthy, so kids should drink some water once they are about 6 months old.
The AAP advises that kids should only drink 100% fruit juice that is pasteurized.
You can begin to offer juice to your older infant when he or she is about 6 months old. But offer it in a sippie-cup only and not in a bottle.
In general, because of the added sugar and extra calories your kids will get from juice, it should be limted to four to six ounces for children between the ages of 1 and 6. Older children can drink more, about eight to 12 ounces of juice a day.
Keep in mind, though, that these really aren't recommendations to give your child juice. There are limits. A better idea is to give your kids whole fruit instead.
5. Vegetable Juice
Vegetables should be an important part of your child's diet.
Because it can be challenging to get some kids to eat vegetables, many vegetable juice drinks are marketed as offering the benefits of vegetables. However, most leave out one important benefit - fiber.
If you are going to give your kids vegetable juice, look for a high-fiber, low-sodium, 100% vegetable juice.
Flavored water is basically water with a little flavoring added to it.
Available in berry, grape, lemon, etc., these flavored waters can be one way to get kids to drink more water.
Many even have some extra vitamins and minerals, but keep in mind that they are made with artificial sweeteners and don't really offer any benefits over drinking regular water. Unless you make the flavored water yourself, using a powder and fluoridated water, than your kids might be missing out on getting enough fluoride to keep their teeth healthy.
As with other types of "diet drinks," flavored water is likely better than drinking a regular soft drink or extra juice, but it shouldn't replace milk and regular water.
7. Sports Drinks
Sports drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade, have always been popular with kids and parents. And that's not necessarily bad, as there is a role for sports drinks for kids during intense physical activity. When used more routinely, because they usually do have calories, drinking extra sports drinks outside of intense physical activity can lead to an increased risk of childhood obesity.
Water and low-fat or fat-free milk are better options during meals and snacks. Even during short or light exercise, most kids don't need the extra electrolytes, minerals and sugar in sports drinks. They should instead drink water. Save the sports drinks for times of vigorous activity.
There are a lot of good reasons to avoid soft drinks, including the extra calories, added sugar and, of course, the caffeine that kids don't need. For example, a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 140 calories, 39g of sugar and 34mg of caffeine.
A diet soft drink without caffeine can be a better alternative when you want to let your child have a soft drink, such as Caffeine-Free Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, Barq's Diet Root Beer, Diet 7-UP, Diet Mug Root Beer, Diet Sierra Mist, Sprite Zero, Fanta Orange Zero or Fresca.
If your child likes sweet tea, consider a low calorie alternative without caffeine, such as Crystal Light Iced Tea drink mix.
9. Diet Soft Drinks
A lot of kids drink diet soft drinks, which are often seen as a healthier alternative to regular soft drinks, with less sugar.
Diet soft drinks may not be an ideal drink, though, as some health experts think they can cause people to overeat because they are getting fewer calories from their beverages. Some parents are also concerned about the caffeine and artificial sweeteners in diet soft drinks.
Another big problem - kids who drink a lot of diet soft drinks likely aren't drinking enough low-fat or reduced-fat milk each day.
While a diet soft drink is likely better than a regular soft drink, especially if your child is overweight, milk and water are even better.
10. Fruit Smoothie
A fruit smoothie made with nonfat or low-fat milk, nonfat yogurt and your child's favorite fruit can be a great drink. It can also be a good way to get your kids to drink milk and eat fruit. too!