What Beverages Are Best for Kids? Four Key Groups Weigh In

Kids don’t need juice, these organizations say.

I should have called this Beverage Week on TLT!

After yesterday’s post on flavored milk in schools, today I bring news of an important new announcement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry regarding what young children should and shouldn’t drink.

This is the first time these four organizations have ever issued a joint set of beverage guidelines, and here’s the upshot:

  • Babies aged 0-6 months should only drink breast milk or infant formula.
  • Babies aged 6-12 months should also have a small amount of drinking water, once solid foods are introduced– just a few sips at meal times to help them get used to the taste. But according to the joint statement, children under age 1 shouldn’t drink any juice, not even 100 percent fruit juice.
  • Toddlers aged 12-24 months should drink whole milk and plain drinking water for hydration. Small amounts of 100 percent fruit juice are OK, but whole fruit is the better choice.
  • Children aged 2-5 years should be still be primarily drinking milk and water, but at this stage, parents should opt for lower fat milks. And, again, 100 percent fruit juice should only be offered to children in small amounts.

Furthermore, according the new statement, all children under age 5 should avoid:

  • flavored milk
  • toddler formulas (also called toddler milks or growing-up milks)
  • plant-base milks, like almond or oat milk (unless a child can’t consume dairy, in which case parents are instructed to discuss suitable plant-based alternatives with their pediatrician or a registered dietitian.)
  • other sugar-sweetened beverages, and
  • beverages that are artificially sweetened—even when the sweetener is natural, like stevia
What’s wrong with this picture?

I was particularly pleased to see all four of these organizations flatly rejecting any role for toddler milks in a healthy child’s diet. In researching and writing my forthcoming book, Kid Food: The Challenge of Feeding Children in a Highly Processed World, I dove deep into how these products are marketed to parents both here and in Asia. And while I don’t want to give away too much before the book comes out, let’s just say . . . OMG! 😠

The joint guidance on juice, while consistent with what the American Academy of Pediatrics has been saying since 2017, is also welcome. Federal dietary data make clear that today’s young children consume far too much juice, which continues to have a persistent but undeserved health halo among parents and in federal child nutrition programs.

For more information on this new beverage guidance, including some useful, downloadable fact sheets, visit healthydrinkshealthykids.org.


Follow TLT on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to Lunch Tray posts, and download my FREE 50-page guide, “How to Get Junk Food Out of Your Child’s Classroom.” You can also now pre-order my new book Kid Food: The Challenge of Feeding Children in a Highly Processed World —coming out this fall!

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