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What Kids Drink Is Important

What kids drink is just as important as what they eat. Why? Certain drinks can add too many calories, cause nutrient loss, and cause tooth decay.

Getting enough to drink

Experts advise that children get 6 to 8 8-ounce cups of fluids a day. But how much your child should drink depends on the weather and their activity level. When it's hot, kids need more fluids, because they lose more through sweating. When they’re active, they lose fluids through sweat and breathing hard. They may need a drink even if they don’t feel thirsty. They may need more if they're out in the heat or doing a lot of physical activity.

The best drinks for your child are:

  • Milk. Steer your kids toward skim or 1% milk. Preschoolers need 3 cups of milk every day. The calcium is helping build strong bones and teeth. In addition to calcium, fortified milk is a great source of protein, and vitamins A and D.

  • Water. To add more pizzazz to plain water, buy low-calorie flavored water. Or mix water with a splash of lemon or lime juice. 

Limiting soft drinks

Sodas and other soft drinks add a lot of sugar and calories to a child’s diet. This can lead to weight problems. Many soft drinks also contain phosphoric acid, which may lead to a loss of calcium. If kids are drinking soda instead of milk, their teeth and bones are at even higher risk for problems.

What about juice?

Although most children love fruit juice, that tasty beverage has a price. Juice contains a lot of natural sugar. Drinking too much can lead to weight gain, diarrhea, and tooth decay.

Juice is high in natural sugar. For an 8-ounce serving:

  • Orange juice has 109 calories

  • Apple juice has 120 calories

  • Pineapple juice has 140 calories

  • Cranberry juice has 145 calories

  • Grape juice has 155 calories

Juice tips:

  • Limit preschoolers to 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day.

  • Limit older children and teens to 8 to 12 ounces of juice a day.

  • Make sure kids drink 100% juice, not a fruit-flavored beverage. Because of labeling laws, made with 100% real juice many not mean that the drink has only pure juice. Read the label to see if sugar, artificial flavors, or other substances are added.

  • Dilute juices with club soda or tap water.

  • Choose citrus juices (orange or grapefruit) that are fortified with calcium and don't contain added sugar. Citrus juices are naturally high in vitamin C.

Online Medical Reviewer: Averett, Jennifer, RD
Last Review Date: 01/31/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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