As parents, we constantly worry whether our children are eating right: Should I have let her eat that second cookie? Why won't he even try green vegetables? Will she ever outgrow her desire to dunk everything in catsup? But while these concerns are valid, many mothers and fathers are missing a much bigger nutrition problem. Here's a hint: It's staring you in the sippy cup. "The drinking habits of many kids are deplorable, putting them at risk for obesity, weak bones, and other serious health problems," says Karen Cullen, R.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the USDA Children's Nutrition Research Center in Houston.
The eye-popping statistics:
- The average 3- to 9-year-old consumes about 30% less milk than the minimum amount recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
- About 10% of 2- to 5-year-olds drink at least double the maximum amount of fruit juice suggested by the AAP.
- The typical 3- to 5-year-old polishes off 9 ounces of soda, punch, or other sweetened beverages daily, while 6- to 9-year-olds guzzle about 11 ounces every day.
- One- to 5-year-olds consumed 23% more fruit juice or fruit drinks in 1998 than a decade ago.
"Parents have to act now," urges William Cochran, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Geisinger Clinic in Danville, PA, and member of the AAP's committee on nutrition. "It's no coincidence that the rates of childhood obesity doubled when juice and soda consumption soared." Ready to make your move? Just follow this step-by-step plan -- developed with pediatric experts -- to help you rate your child's drinking habits and, if necessary, get her back on track. And check out our recipes for nutrient-packed beverages. After all, kids need liquids -- but, as parents, we need to ensure that these fluids are nutritious.