With the growing number of blogs and articles popping up on the topic of how and what to feed kids, it can often be overwhelming as a parent to know what to read and what to believe – and then what to feed your kids. As a mom and registered dietitian, this recently released research, “Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood: Recommendations from Key National Health and Nutrition Organizations,” from Healthy Eating Research caught my attention.
This evidence-based report – co-authored by an expert panel of representatives from four leading health organizations (American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) – has gained media coverage and has most likely been circulating in your news feeds. But what are the recommendations, and what does it mean for you?
- Milk is one of only two “go-to” beverages recommended for children ages 0-5; the other is water. Decades of research supports this recommendation with findings that show milk and the dairy food group serve as an important source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A and D, B vitamins, and protein. For young children and infants, it’s the number one source of energy, calcium, vitamins A and D, and zinc – making it a critical component of a healthy diet.
- Breast milk or infant formula is recommended for kids 0-12 months of age. Whole milk is recommended for most children ages 12-24 months and fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk for children ages 2 years and older.
- 100% fruit juice is not recommended until after 1 year of age and should be limited to no more than 4-6 ounces per day, dependent on age.
- All sugar-sweetened beverages, flavored milk and plant-based alternatives (except for fortified soy beverages) are not recommended in the diets of children ages 0-5.
What Does It Mean for You?
Plain and simple – milk (breast, formula or cow’s milk, dependent on age) and water should be the only go-to beverages for children up to age 5, with the occasional 100% fruit juice in limited amounts.
Beverages play a key role in young kids’ health – comprising a significant percentage of their calories in the early years of life. Additionally, the calories kids consume are critical in helping meet nutrient needs, leaving little room for nutrient-poor, calorie-laden beverage options. Appropriate intakes of healthy beverages in early childhood are extremely important in meeting the nutritional needs of infants and young children and supporting healthy growth and development. Teaching kids to love healthy beverage choices now will have a lasting impact on their decisions down the road – and overall health in the future. And, as always, be sure to consult with your health care provider to assess what’s best for your child’s individual needs.
Learn more about dairy and childhood nutrition