Everyone needs to make better beverage choices!Today, we are raising children that drink more than just water, milk, and juice. It’s common to see infants or toddlers drinking soda or sports drinks from bottles at the mall or even the doctor’s office. Bottles are for water or milk, not soda!
Most pediatricians recommend infants switch from breast milk or formula to whole milk at age 12months.The switch from whole milk to low-fat milk (0%, 1%, or 2%) should occur at age 24months. WIC supports this recommendation as well and provides these products for families (1).
Most children (and adults for that matter!) should be drinking water or low-fat milk. Juice should be limited to less than 6-8 ounces per day as it too contains extra calories that are often not needed. Sugar-free beverages can come in handy if children say that water gets “boring” or “lacks taste.” There are multiple sugar-free, no calorie beverages on the market these days.Look for tea, lemonade, soda, juice-substitutes, and fancy waters that are labeled “diet” or “zero” or “max” or “gold” varieties.
Why pick sugar-free? Drinking even 8 ounces of regular soda every day (roughly 100 calories) equals a little over 10 pound gain in a year! How many kids stop at just one 8-ounce of soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages? Most drink at least 20-ounces or even 32-ounces in a day – think of the extra calories and weight gain!
Most sports drinks are high in excess calories as well. While there is a wide range of calories in these drinks (from 50-110 calories per 8-ounces), they are still empty calories, providing little nutrition other than sugar. Do you know why Gatorade was invented? It was invented in 1965 to help the Florida Gators football team replace electrolytes in the hot and humid summers and to increase performance during football practice and game time (2). Scientists working with the football team invented the drink and called it Gatorade (2). Most of us (adults and children) are not exercising or performing at this elite level and do not need the extra calories from a sports drink.
Bottom line – pick water, low-fat milk, or sugar-free, no-calorie drinks this summer!
By Meghan Peckis, MS, RD, LD