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‘Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood’: Health groups collaborate on guidelines

Toddler sippy cup
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Princeton, NJ — When should parents and caregivers introduce water, milk and juices into a young child’s diet?

To answer that question, a panel of experts from four national health organizations – the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association – collaborated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research program to develop guidelines for children 5 and younger. The result is the 16-page “Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood” consensus statement.

“Early childhood is an important time to start shaping nutrition habits and promoting healthy beverage consumption,” Healthy Eating Research Deputy Director Megan Lott said in a Sept. 18 press release. “By providing … a clear set of objective science-based recommendations for healthy drink consumption, we can use this opportunity to work together and improve the health and well-being of infants and young children throughout the United States.”

The guidelines:

  • From birth to 6 months, babies need only infant formula and breast milk.
  • For babies who are 6-12 months old, small amounts of water can be offered when solid foods are introduced. Avoid juices, including 100% juice, for all children younger than 12 months.
  • At 12-24 months, whole milk and water can be added to children’s diets. If your child is lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy milk, or your family abstains from dairy products, alternatives include unsweetened and fortified soy milks. Small portions of fruit juices are OK, but small servings of fruit are preferable.
  • For ages 2-5, milk and water are preferred – avoid flavored milks, toddler formulas, low-calorie or sugar-sweetened beverages, and milks made from almonds, rice and oats.

“We are trying to avoid any sweetened beverages for young children,” Marie-Pierre St-Onge, associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, said in separate press release.

The recommendations also can be found on Healthy Eating Research’s Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids website.

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