How is it that there are entire aisles at the grocery store devoted to beverages? Does anyone else find this crazy? When did drinks become such a huge part of our diet? What would the pilgrims think if they walked into a grocery store and saw all those drinks? I mean, what would they think if they walked into a grocery store at all? I digress… the point is, there are so many enticing drink options out there for you little sprout, but what do they really need? What are the healthy options? And how did cranberries get into all those bottles (Brian Regan anyone?)?! Let’s just get into the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of beverages shall we?
During the first 6 months of your child’s life, their sole source of fluids should be either breastmilk or iron-fortified formula. In fact, your baby doesn’t even need water in the first year if they are drinking enough breastmilk/formula. I’m not totally opposed to introducing water to your baby around the same time you start adding solid foods though. I think water is a great way to start introducing your baby to a sippy cup or even a regular cup to help them wean off the bottle (which should be by 1 year believe it or not). Just make sure if you are adding water to their diet that it doesn’t take the place of breastmilk or formula. Breastmilk and formula are rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and calories that your baby needs. Water… well water is pretty much just rich in hydrogen, oxygen, and fluoride if you live in one of those lovely fluoridated cities. I mean, it has trace minerals from the ground and pipes and all that but if it’s rich in fat or calories you should probably have your water source checked… just sayin.
After your child turns 1, you have the option to add cow’s milk to their diet. You can also continue to breastfeed for as long as you and your baby want. Adding cow’s milk prior to 12 months is typically not recommended because it can lead to a whole host of problems including milk allergies, excessive renal solute load (aka extra work for their kidneys), GI blood loss, poor nutritional status, chronic constipation, etc. Instead of explaining these in detail can we just agree to hold off on cow’s milk until about 12 months? Thanks. (Just for full disclosure, I did introduce cow’s milk to G around 11 months. Not in large amounts and I didn’t stop breastfeeding, I just wanted to help him adjust to the taste to make the transition easier when we were ready… which for me was about 2 days but for him was about 13 months. He won that battle.) When you do add cow’s milk, be sure it’s whole milk or vitamin D milk until they’re 2. Whole milk contains essential fat and calories that your sweet little sprout needs. Switch to 2% when they turn 2 (unless your pediatrician recommends otherwise), but until then keep it wholesome…get it? With whole milk? Ahem…moving on…
Juice! Might seem a bit harsh to label juice, “the bad”, but here’s the facts: just like water, your child does not need juice before the 6 month mark. Actually, your child does not NEED juice well… ever. Want? Maybe. Need? Definitely not. Juice is high in the sugar department but not so much in the nutrient department. Up until your child is 6 years old they really shouldn’t have more than 4-6 ounces of juice a day (that’s ½ to ¾ cup). And they don’t even need that much. I do think juice has one redeeming quality and that is to help with constipation, because a constipated baby is definitely not a happy baby. Even when constipated, babies only need a small amount. Pear juice or apple juice are both great options to get the pipes moving! So the sad news is that even children between 7-18 years of age don’t need juice, we’re talking no more than 8-12 ounces (1-1 ½ cups) a day. If your child is a heavy juice drinker, try diluting it with water to make it stretch. Also, make sure they’re drinking 100% juice. How do you know if it’s 100% juice? It should say so right on the bottle. If you’re not sure, check the ingredients. If you’re child wants something fruity and sweet try a smoothie! Blended fruit has all the benefits of whole fruit (minus a few air sensitive vitamins) and you can sneak in little extras like spinach or yogurt!
So, we’ve talked about water, we’ve talked about milk and juice (hopefully we’re still friends after the juice discussion…), can we just have a little chat about sugar sweetened beverages? Have you heard that term or is that just a dietitian-world thing? According to the CDC:
“SSBs…include soft drinks (soda or pop), fruit drinks, sports drinks, tea and coffee drinks, energy drinks, sweetened milk or milk alternatives, and any other beverages to which sugar, typically high fructose corn syrup or sucrose (table sugar), has been added”.
This would include soda, kool-aid, gatorade, hawaiian punch, most juice cocktails, and lots of other delicious looking beverages. These drinks are what we dietitians like to call empty calories. As in, not a lot of health benefits going on in those bottles. Kids need empty calories about as much as adults, which is to say they don’t need empty calories. As an occasional treat? Great. As an everyday beverage… maybe not (and that applies to all ages…). Plus, G already runs circles around me (sometimes literally), the LAST thing I need is to get him hyped up on sugar.
So there you have it, babes and beverages (even if your baby is now 17 with a high fade and an obsession with cat shirts…). If there are any drinks I’ve missed that you’re wondering about, please let me know! But in the meantime, grab your water bottles and drink up!!