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Calories from Drinks

Child Obesity Help

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Updated April 19, 2006

Updated April 19, 2006
One of the first steps in losing weight or even trying to stop a lot of weight gain is limiting the extra calories that your child is getting. This is often harder than it needs to be for most parents, who are usually surprised by the fact that their kids are often getting an extra 700-1000 calories or more from drinking fruit drinks, soda, and milk, etc. And depending on your child's age, that could be more than half of the calories that they need for the whole day!

A drink diary can be a good way to figure out how many calories that your child is getting from the things that she drinks.

Milk and Juice Recommendations

How much should your kids be drinking? Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children:
  • 1-3 years old get about 2 servings of milk (low fat milk after age 2 years)
  • 4-8 years old get about 3 servings of low fat milk
  • 9-18 years old get about 4 servings of low fat milk
As far as juice, the AAP recommends that you be much more limiting. Among the recommendations of the from the AAP are that:
  • when you give your child juice, it should be 100% pasteurized fruit juice and not fruit drinks
  • infants under 6 months of age should not be given juice
  • younger children aged 1 to 6 years should have only 4-6 ounces of juice a day
  • older children should be limited to 8-12 ounces of juice a day
  • instead of juice, children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits
Anything else your child is drinking should be limited to water most of the times, although you might make an exception for a sport's drink, like Gatorade, after heavy exercise.

Diluting your child's juice with water can also help limit the amount of calories he gets from juice.

Calories From Drinks

To see how many calories your child should get from the things he drinks, lets use a typical four year old preschooler who is following all of the recommendations of the AAP and is drinking 3 servings of 2% milk and only 6 ounces of 100% fruit juice:
  • 3 servings of 2% milk = 360 calories (120 calories/cup)
  • 1 serving (6 ounces) of 100% fruit juice = 100 calories*
  • 2 cups of water = 0 calories
So this child drank 460 calories for the day, which is only about 25% of the total calories that the average preschooler needs for the day.

If you now go to the other extreme and see how a few changes can really get you a lot of extra calories, consider this other preschooler who drinks a lot more juice and whole milk that is flavored with chocolate:

  • 3 servings of whole milk with chocolate flavoring = 720 calories (150 calories/cup for whole milk plus an extra 90 calories/serving for the chocolate powder)
  • 2 servings of a fruit drink = 200 calories (100 calories/6 ounce serving)
  • 1 can of soda = 150 calories (150 calories/12 ounce serving)
By drinking more juice, soda, and the whole milk with chocolate, this child more than doubled the amount of calories he was getting from the things he drinks. And at 1,070 calories, he is getting more than 50% of his daily calorie requirements from the things he drinks. Those calories from his drinks are usually in addition to everything he is eating though, getting him way above the number of calories he needs for the day, which is why kids who drink a lot gain a lot of weight and become overweight.

Reduced Calorie Drinks

After using our Drink Diary, if you discover that your child is getting too many calories from what he is drinking, then make sure that you are following the AAP recommendations for milk and juice and consider these reduced calorie drinks:
  • 2% milk = 120 calories/cup (vs. 150 calories/cup for whole milk)
  • 1% milk = 100 calories/cup
  • skim milk = 80 calories/cup
  • Water = 0 calories/serving
  • Kool-Aid Jammers 10 = 10 calories/serving**
  • Minute Maid Light Lemonade = 15 calories/serving**
  • Minute Maid Light Orange Juice = 50 calories/serving
  • Crystal Light Teas, Fruit Drinks, and Lemonades = 5 calories/serving**
*Fruit juice typically has 120 calories/cup (8 ounces).
**These products are not 100% fruit juice.

Related Video
How Much Juice and Milk is Too Much?

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