Healthy drinks for kids
Healthy drinks for kids
Written by Christine Sorbello, Dietitian/Nutritionist
Encouraging healthy drinks for kids is just as important as what they eat. Just as with food there has been a massive increase in the types of drinks available to us. Many of these new products are marketed as having health and fitness benefits but do they really achieve these and are they actually required by our children?
What to Drink
Water – Consume as much as you want, anytime you want, absolutely no calories and 100% free! Marketing tactics aside, while it can sometimes seem a little dull, water is no doubt the very best thing we can drink. Encourage kids right from toddler age to drink water when they feel thirsty by making it readily available.
· Give them their own “special” water bottle that can be taken around the house or put on the bottom shelf of the fridge for easy access by them
· A frozen water bottle in the lunchbox helps keep lunches fresh as well as provides a cool drink as it melts
· Always take a water bottle on trips and outings
· Put the water jug on the table at every meal
· Model the behaviour by drinking plenty of water yourself
· Occasionally make it special by adding fruit ice blocks or a dash of fruit juice or food colouring (avoid regularly adding cordials – these are a sometimes food)
Milk – is an important source of nutrition for children from 12 months* of age through adolescence. It provides carbohydrates for energy, protein for growth and calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Aim for at least 1 serve (250ml) a day along with other dairy foods such as yoghurt and cheese. If your family doesn’t drink milk choose milk alternatives (such as soy or almond) that are fortified with calcium and increase serves of other dairy and/or calcium rich foods.
* Children under 12 months of age require breastmilk or infant formula. Cows milk and milk alternatives are not suitable as a drink for infants.
Fruit Juice – these can be a good source of nutrients but should be limited to 1 serve (125ml) a day as they are high in sugar and low in fibre. Choose 100% juice and dilute with water. Avoid putting juice in bottles or sipping throughout the day as its’ high acid and sugar content are big contributors to tooth decay. Eating whole fruit is a better option.
What to avoid
Fruit drinks, soft drinks and cordials – sugar-sweetened drinks are the largest source of sugar in the Australian diet and consumption is highest amongst children and adolescent. There is strong evidence linking these drinks to childhood overweight and obesity. Their high acid content can also lead to teeth erosion (this includes diet soft drinks too!). Fruit drinks, soft drinks and cordials are not suitable for infants and toddlers and consumption should be limited for older children and adolescents (and adults).
Caffeinated beverages (tea, coffee, coffee flavoured milks, iced tea, colas and energy drinks) – Caffeine is a drug that acts as a stimulant. While safe in low doses, high consumption of caffeinated drinks can lead to anxiousness, attention difficulties, increased blood pressure, disturbed sleep, nausea and diarrhoea and also withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue and headaches. Consumption of caffeine is increasing, especially among children and adolescents, probably due to the increased popularity and availability of cola drinks and energy drinks. At present safe limits for caffeine in young people are not known. It is recommended that young children should avoid caffeinated drinks and adolescents should limit consumption. Keep an eye on how much your child consumes and cutback if you notice any symptoms such as those listed above. For more info visit click HERE.
Sports drinks – should be limited for children and adolescents. They are really just sugar-sweetened drinks and have the same negative health impacts of soft drinks and cordials. Sports drinks are not required by children participating in leisure and general organised sports activities – water is the best drink in these circumstances. Sports drinks are only beneficial for people participating in intense endurance activities (i.e. more than 1 hour constant “huff & puff” activity).
Alcohol – while it probably goes without saying, alcohol is not suitable for children. Children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking alcohol and should not drink. For young people aged 15 – 17, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.
Size does matter
It is much easier to over-consume calories (energy) when you drink them. Many drinks that appear to be a single serving are available in excessively large containers. Closer inspection of the nutrition label reveals that many are multiple times the volume of the recommended serving size.
For example a 600ml bottle of soft drink actually contains 3 x 200ml servings; over 1000kJ and 13 teaspoons of sugar! So, the best option is to purchase the smallest volume/container available. This goes for all types of drinks including soft drinks, milks, juices, etc. If you are feeling extra thirsty quench it with water!
NHMRC (2013). Eat for health, Australian dietary guidelines.
NHMRC (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.
Australian Drug Foundation (2013). Caffeine Facts.
Healthy Drinks for Kids