Parents want their children to be healthy and happy, so they put significant time and thought into preparingdelicious and nutritious food for their families. But, how often do you pay the same attention to the drinks you give your children?
It’s well worth stopping and reconsidering whether the drinks your kids are consuming are optimally healthy; the beverages they tend to drink can make a considerable difference to the amount of calories and sugar they consume over time, which could eventually contribute to weight and dental problems, and be bad for their overall health.
Consuming the correct quantity as well as quality is also vitally important, as children who are well hydrated will have more energy and better concentration levels to get through a busy day of school work or play. Young children should be consuming around a liter of fluids (around five cups) per day, which rises to one and a half liters for older children and two liters for teenagers.
Here are the best drinks for children, and how much they should be drinking each day.
1. Lots of Water!
No surprises here; it’s the hands-down winner of the best drink for kids. There are so many advantages to water; it offers super hydration levels without adding any fat or calories to your kid’s diet, and it’s also perfect for healthy teeth too, since it contains no sugars.
Most of your child’s fluid consumption should come from water, ideally.
We know, unfortunately, that lots of children find water dull. However, there are a few ways to tempt them to drink more, such as offering it icy cold on a hot day, or by letting them choose a container with their favorite character on so they can sip throughout the day.
Often, kids learn best by following your example, so if you increase your water intake, your kids will probably follow you.
Other ways of “disguising” water are to make colorful drinks infused with natural flavors. Popular options are to add the below fruits to a jug of water:
- Slices of citrus fruits
- Fresh mint, melon or apple
Your child can have fun experimenting with different ingredients.
2. Some Simple Milk
Another super-healthy drink, milk contains lots of calcium and vitamin D which is vital for growing bones and healthy teeth.
However, caution with milk is advised since it is calorific (especially if whole milk is chosen) and contains natural sugars (around a teaspoon for every 100ml in cow’s milk). Consuming high quantities of milk can affect appetite for foods because of its calorie content, and therefore children may miss out on other important nutrients this way.
So, how much milk is just right? The American Heart Association recommends two cups per day for young children, going up to three for children over the age of nine. Cow’s milk should not be given to babies under one year old, who need breast milk or breast milk substitutes for the vital stages of child development.
If your child really doesn’t like the taste of cow’s milk, you could try unsweetened soy alternatives. You must give a big “no,” however, to flavored milk drinks and variations such as hot chocolate or shakes, as they up the sugar levels to beyond acceptable for an everyday drink.
Remember that children can get the equivalent nutrition from other dairy products such as low-sugar yogurt and cheese. So if they really don’t want to drink any milk, that’s fine, as long as the correct balance of nutrition and fluids are maintained through appropriate alternatives.
3. A Little Fruit Juice
Fruit is healthy and nutritious, so fruit juice must be too, right? Well, sort of. Fresh fruit juice can add important vitamins to your child’s diet (i.e., vitamin C from orange juice).
However, much of the goodness such as natural fiber is removed during the process of turning the fruit into a drink, whereas all the sugars remain. The original fruit is definitely healthier than its juice.
Consuming large quantities of any fruit juice is likely to mean that your child is consuming too much sugar. A sensible amount to stick to is one cup per day with a meal to minimize the risk to teeth. This can be diluted with water, too.
… And For Treats?
It’s great to have a treat once in a while. Variety is the spice of life, right? If you want to treat your child to a special drink once in a while, you could try smoothies, which are high in sugar, but still contain much more of the fruit’s goodness than a cup of juice.
Some children may also appreciate the taste of decaffeinated teas which can be enjoyed as long as they are unsweetened.
What About Fizzy Drinks or Sports Drinks?
It’s best to avoid fizzy drinks completely; even artificially sweetened ones. Not only can they give your a child a taste for sugary drinks (a habit which is hard to beat), but they usually contain acids which can slowly erode the outside of teeth. Even sparkling water is mildly acidic and may lead your child into being tempted by less healthy fizzy drinks.
Sports drinks often contain large quantities of sugars and stimulants such as caffeine, making them unsuitable and unnecessary for children.