First, let’s discuss other types of fluids people drink. It is recommended that children over 1 year of age eat or drink 2-3 servings of dairy per day. That includes milk, cheese, ice cream or yogurt. So normally maybe 1-2 servings of milk, 8 ounces each. Soy milk, almond milk and other milk-like substitutes are not dairy products and do not have the same nutritional content that milk from cows or goats or other mammals contains.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children before the age of 5 years old should not have sweetened beverages!!! Gatorade, vitamin water, lemonade, sodas, Kool aid, capri sun and even JUICE all have too much sugar and not enough nutritional value to be used on a regular basis. This is also the category soymilk and almond milk and milk substitutes are found. These are nut products produced into a juice. Smoothies, pediasure, and other supplemental drinks also are not recommended for normal healthy children.
So how about diet drinks? Many diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners. We are still collecting information on various artificial sweeteners. In general we know there are bad effects if these are used in large amounts. Limiting artificial sweeteners to 1-2 per day is a good idea if you are going to use them. Don’t forget to count the sugar free gum or candy. Some sweeteners are known to increase headache, urinary pain, risk of cancer, kidney disease. All artificial sweeteners fool your body into thinking you are eating sugar and your body will act in some ways like it is getting sugar. This is not a healthy choice.
What can I do? There are several healthy options for kids and adults. Many people are familiar with adding lemon to your water for flavor, but you can add many different fruits, vegetables or herbs to flavor water. Chopped strawberries, blueberries, cucumber and oranges are popular choices. For smaller kids, put those fruits into a clear sippy cup and they get some visual appeal as well and will enjoy holding on to that cup! Be careful of choking hazards.
Other options are caffeine free herbal tea. Understand that not all herbal tea is appropriate for kids or people with some health conditions. Some good choices are mandarine tea, peppermint tea, chamomile tea, hibiscus tea. There are a lot of great choices for tea. They add color and flavor to water without adding sugar. They also are inexpensive!
Caffeine is not recommended for children because of behavior, urinary changes and also its action of blocking calcium and creating weakened bones.
Save your money and drink tap water if you have city water. City water contains fluoride to help strengthen your teeth. It is safe to drink. If your water comes from a well, you will need to determine the safety of the water.
What other healthy choices can you think to offer your children? Let's discuss during your next visit!