Water should be the main drink served to kids at snack times. Water satisfies thirst and does not have sugar or calories. If kids are used to getting sweetened beverages at snack times, it may take a little time for them to get used to drinking water.
Carbonated drinks like seltzer, sparkling water, and club soda are healthy options. They do not contain the sugars, calories, and caffeine of sodas. Serve them alone or try making "healthy sodas" by mixing them with equal amounts of 100% fruit juice.
Low-Fat and Fat-Free Milk
Milk provides key nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D. Choose fat-free skim- or low-fat (1%) milk to avoid the heart-damaging saturated fat found in whole and 2% milk. It is best to serve fat-free versions of chocolate, strawberry, or other flavored milks to help balance the extra calories coming from added sugars. Single-serve containers of chocolate or other flavored whole or 2% milk drinks can be too high in calories (400-550 calories) and saturated fat (1/3 of a day's worth) to be a healthy beverage for kids.
Soy and Rice Drinks
For children who prefer not to drink cow's milk, calcium-fortified soy and rice drinks are good choices.
Try to buy 100% fruit juice and avoid the added sugars of juice drinks, punches, fruit cocktail drinks, or lemonade. Drinks that contain at least 50% juice and no additional caloric sweeteners are also healthful options. To find 100% juice, look at beverage nutrition labels for the percentage of the beverage that is juice. Orange, grapefruit, and pineapple juices are more nutrient-dense and are healthier than apple, grape, and pear juices.
Fruit juice can be rich in vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds. However, it is high in calories. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 1-6 years old drink no more than 6 ounces (one serving) of juice a day and children ages 7-18 years old drink no more than 12 ounces (2 servings) of juice a day.
A note about sugary soft drinks (soda, sweetened tea, lemonade, and juice drinks): Children who drink more sweetened drinks consume more calories and are more likely to be overweight than kids who drink fewer soft drinks. Soft drinks also end up taking the place of healthful foods in kids' diets, such as milk, which can help prevent osteoporosis, and 100% juice, which can help prevent heart disease and cancer. In addition, soda can cause dental cavities and tooth decay.
Originally featured at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (cspi.net) and reprinted with permission. Copyright ? 2012 Meredith Corporation.