INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There are new health guidelines out about what young children should and should not drink. The recommendations include limits on sugar and what milk is best for kids.
Most children under the age of five should avoid plant-based milk, according to new health guidelines released by Health Eating Research. Plant-based milk made from rice, coconut, oats or other blends often lack key nutrition for early development, according to guidelines released on Wednesday by leading health organizations. Limiting plant-based milk was a key change based on drinking trends.
“In the last five to 10 years there has been an explosion of interest in plant-based milk. More and more parents are turning to them for a variety of reasons and there’s a misconception that they are equal somehow to cow or dairy milk, but that’s just not the case,” said Megan Lott, who helped develop the recommendations as the deputy director of the Healthy Eating Research. “The guidelines do make an exception if a child has a dairy or cow milk allergy or is lactose intolerant or has religious rules or lives in a house that keeps a vegan diet, in that case, the parents should definitely consult with their pediatrician or dietitian.”
They should also avoid low-calorie and zero-calorie drinks, flavored milks and sugary beverages and limit how much juice they drink, the guidelines said.
“We are finding more and more of these artificial sweeteners showing up in food marketed to young children and there is no research on these substitutes that show they cause harm, but there’s really no research showing that they are safe,” said Lott.
With children being in a vulnerable developmental stage, it’s good to be cautious, she said.
Toddler milk and flavored milk is also off the menu. In the past, recommendations allowed some wiggle room on flavors, suggesting that chocolate milk would be better than no milk at all, Lott said, but the committee shifted its thinking. She noted this is a key age when a child develops a taste preference and it’s more important to create healthy habits early.
Still off the menu for young children are sugar-sweetened beverages and caffeinated beverages, such as soda.
The other key change involves juice. The guidelines recommend children under 1 year old drink no juice at all. For age 1 to 3, it’s no more than half a cup a day, and for children who are 4 and 5 it’s no more than half-cup to 3/4 a cup a day.
What children should drink?
The guidelines say babies need only breast milk or infant formula and once they are 6 months old, small amounts of water. Children should stick to milk, water and occasionally drink juice.
The guidelines recommend children between the age of 1 and 2 years old drink two to three cups of whole milk a day. At age 2 and 3 they should drink no more than two cups of skim or low-fat milk a day. For age 4 and 5 they should drink no more than two and a half cups of skim or low-fat milk a day.
For water, it’s a half-cup to a cup for 6- to 12-month-old children, one to four cups a day for ages 1 to 3, and one and a half to five cups a day for 4- and 5-year-olds.
The recommendations come from a panel of experts with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association.
“When some parents walk into a grocery store they may be overwhelmed by the options, but in daily life, the key message is, what we recommend is doable, even if it does take some persistence and cooperation,” Lott said. “There are lots of opportunities to make great improvements in a child’s nutrition for parents here.”