Why no sweet drinks for children
Often babies and children prefer sweet tasting fluids; however sugary drinks such as fruit juice, soft drink or cordial are not necessary and may cause health problems if drunk in large amounts.
What are sweet drinks?
Sweet drinks include all fruit juices, soft drinks, energy drinks, cordials, flavoured mineral waters and sports drinks either bought or home-made. Fruit juices contain sugars that are found naturally in fresh fruits, but become very concentrated when made into juice.
While breast milk, formula and unflavoured cows milk contain a sugar called lactose, these are not considered to be sweet drinks. Milk is important for children as it contains calcium needed for healthy bones and other key nutrients for growth and development.
How much is too much?
Children do not require any fruit juices or other sweet drinks to have a well-balanced and healthy diet. If you do include sweet drinks in your child’s diet, limit this to one small glass per day. Intake of sweet drinks reduces overall nutritional quality of your child’s diet and also teaches children the ‘habit’ of drinking sweet drinks.
Why limit juice?
As juice comes from fresh fruit and vegetables, it is easy to believe it is a natural, healthy food, full of vitamins. For example, children only need half an orange to get their daily requirement of vitamin C – but it takes three or four oranges to make one glass of juice.
Encourage your children to eat fresh fruit and vegetables instead of juice.
- Supply fibre to the diet and help prevent constipation
- Satisfy their appetite for longer, helping to prevent over-eating
- Help with skills such as peeling and chewing
- Teach about different textures, colour and tastes
- Provide a convenient, healthy and nourishing option for snacks.
What should I give my child to drink?
Breast milk is the perfect feed for infants; ideally infants should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months. For children younger than 12 months old, breast milk or infant formula should be the main drink. After 12 months of age, when your child has reduced breastfeeding or formula, full fat cow’s milk can be offered as a drink.
While milk is important for calcium, too much can lead to poor appetite. Three glasses per day is suggested.
For toddlers and older children, water is the preferred drink, so encourage this regularly throughout the day.
Artificially sweetened cordial and soft drinks are not recommended as they teach your child the habit of sweet drinks.
Which milk should I give my child?
For children under two years, only full fat dairy products are recommended.
From two to five years, reduced fat milk and dairy products can be offered; however skim milk and dairy products are not appropriate.
When children are over five years, either skim or reduced fat milk and dairy products can be used.
Flavoured milks are not recommended as they are higher in sugar than plain milks.
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