Nutrition

Healthy Drinks for Kids

Last updated: Apr 30, 2015


Data from the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity show that many parents believe fruit drinks, sports drinks, and flavored water are healthy options for kids.But sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit drinks, sports drinks, and flavored water, are the largest source of unnecessary and unwanted added sugar in the US diet.2

Added sugars found in many beverages
are associated with high and ever-increasing rates
of overweight and obese people,
dental cavities, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes,
chronic inflammation, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,
gout, and cardiovascular disease.

In addition to adding unnecessary calories to the diets of US children, beverages high in added sugar often are low in important vitamins and minerals. When kids fill up on them, they can miss out on healthy, nutrient-rich drinks such as milk.3

Sugar-sweetened beverages include:

  • Energy drinks
  • Flavored milk
  • Fruit drinks
  • Soft drinks / soda
  • Sports drinks
  • Sweetened coffees and teas

sugars commonly Added to sweetened beverages include:

  • Brown sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Molasses
  • Refined white sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup 

drinks pack a sugary punch

Research shows that sugars in fruit drinks, soda, and sports beverages provide almost half of the added sugars in the diets of children ages 2 to 19 years.3

In a recent survey, the majority of parents said they gave their kids fruit drinks such as Capri Sun or Sunny D because they believe marketing claims that highlight terms such as real, natural, containing vitamin C and antioxidants, low sodium, and low calorie.

fruit juice and nectar Facts

  • 100 percent fruit juice contains only fruit juice with no added sugars or water
  • Fruit nectar is 25 percent to 50 percent juice and includes added water and sugars
  • Fruit beverages, drinks, and punch contain only 10 percent to 20 percent juice
    and also are comprised of added water and sugars4

According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 30 percent of children age 12 to 14 months, 37 percent of children age 15 to 18 months, and 44 percent of children age 19 to 24 months consume fruit drinks and carbonated soft drinks at least once each day. On weekdays, children get 55 percent to 70 percent of their total calories from sugar-sweetened beverages at home rather than at school or elsewhere.2


Children consume sweetened beverages because:

  • Advertising can mislead parents into thinking sweetened beverages are nutritious.
    In fact, beverage companies spent 4 times the cost to advertise sugar-sweetened beverages
    in 2013 as they spent on 100 percent juice and plain water. Just 4 percent of their advertising dollars
    were spent promoting water5
  • Sweetened beverages often are marketed to children who are particularly vulnerable to advertising 
  • Drink portions have greatly increased in the last 20 years. For example, a typical soft drink serving
    20 years ago was 6.5 ounces and contained 5 teaspoons of added sugar, whereas a soft drink serving today
    is 20 ounces and contains 16 teaspoons of added sugar5
  • Sweetened beverages are readily available at home and in social gatherings
  • They mimic their parents' drinking habits. Data show children whose parents regularly drink soft drinks
    are almost 3 times more likely to consume soft drinks 5 or more times a week than children whose parents do not drink soft drinks2

Tips for choosing healthy drinks for kids:

  • Focus on nutrition facts labels
    • Be aware of misleading marketing terms such as all natural and real.
  • Choose drinks that contain 100 percent pure fruit juice and no added sweeteners
  • Choose unflavored water and unflavored milk
    • Make unflavored water easily available at home and at school
    • Use brightly colored straws and decorated cups to make water visually appealing
  • Drink the kinds of beverages you would like your kids to drink
  • Offer plain, unflavored water first when your child is thirsty
  • Make healthy flavored waters by mixing 1 to 2 tablespoons of 100 percent fruit juice
    into 8 ounces of water
  • Get your kids to flavor water with healthy options
    • Add fresh berries, grapes, and slices of fresh oranges, lemons, kiwi, pineapple, and melon
      in a large glass pitcher filled with water, and then refrigerate it
  • Travel with a cooler, water bottles, or 100 percent fruit juice boxes
    to avoid stopping for sugary beverages
  • Limit sports beverages overall
    • Offer them only after vigorous physical activity lasting an hour or longer7

Healthy drink Recommendations7

Preschool children ages 2 to 4 years

  • Water with no added sweeteners or carbonation
  • Milk (unflavored, low fat, and nonfat) and soy beverages fortified with calcium and vitamin D
    in 8-ounce or smaller portions
  • Juice up to 4 ounces of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice or fruit juice combined with water with no added sweeteners and no more than 70 mg of sodium per portion

Children ages 5 to 10 years

  • Water, including carbonated water with no added sweeteners
  • Milk (unflavored, low fat, and nonfat) and soy beverages fortified with calcium and vitamin D
    in 8-ounce or smaller portions
  • Juice up to 6 ounces of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice or fruit juice combined with water
    with no added sweeteners and no more than 100 mg of sodium per portion

Children and adolescents ages 11 to 13 years

  • Water, including carbonated water with no added sweeteners
  • Milk (unflavored, low fat, and nonfat) and soy beverages fortified with calcium and vitamin D
    in 12-ounce or smaller portions
  • Juice up to 8 ounces of 100% fruit or vegetable juice or fruit juice combined with water
    with no added sweeteners and no more than 140 mg of sodium per portion

Adolescents ages 14 to 18 years

  • Water, including carbonated water with no added caloric sweeteners
  • Milk (unflavored, low-fat, and nonfat) and soy beverages fortified with calcium and vitamin D
    in 12-ounce or smaller portions
  • Juice up to 8 ounces of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice or fruit juice combined with water
    with no added caloric sweeteners and no more than 140 mg of sodium per portion
  • Other beverages such as noncaffeinated, nonfortified drinks with no more than 40 calories per container

It is also best to choose drinks that have no synthetic food dyes, caffeine, and other additives such as electrolytes and artificial flavors.


References

1. Munsell CR, Harris JL, Sarda V, Schwartz MB. Parents' beliefs about the healthfulness of sugary drink options: opportunities to address misperceptions. Public Health Nutr. 2015;11:1-20.
2. The CDC Guide to Strategies for Reducing the Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. March 2010. http://www.cdph.ca.gov/SiteCollectionDocuments/StratstoReduce_Sugar_Sweetened_Bevs.pdf. Accessed May 1, 2015.
3. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: use of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112:739-758. 
4. Defining Juices. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y2515e/y2515e03.htm. Accessed May 1, 2015.
5. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Serving sizes and portions. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/eat-right/distortion.htm. Accessed May 1. 2015.
6. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Beverage companies still target kids with marketing for unhealthy sugary drinks. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. November 19, 2014. http://www.rwjf.org/en/library/articles-and-news/2014/11/Beveragecompaniesstilltargetkidswithmarketingforunhealthysugarydrinks.html. Accessed May 1, 2015.
7. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research. Recommendations for Healthier Beverages.
http://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/issue_briefs/2013/rwjf404852. Accessed May 1, 2015.
 

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