Milk, water, but no fruit juices for kids under five

a boy drinking fresh milk from glass

The best drink for children under the age of five is milk or water, concluded a panel of nutritionist after examining various beverages, including 100 percent fruit juices, sweetened beverages and plant-based milks.

The panel included experts from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association.

The panel noted that while a little 100 percent fruit juice is OK for children after their first birthday, it should be no more than 120ml daily for children ages 1 to 3 and no more than 180ml for those ages 4 to 5. However, a better option than the juice would be to eat the whole fruit since it will provide the fiber that goes missing in the juice and is also more filling.

Children under age 1 should drink no fruit juice — a recommendation that might surprise parents who purchase fruit juices marketed for infant consumption. “Fruit juice contains up to 120 calories per serving, and that’s 10 percent of a child’s whole daily recommended caloric intake.” Sugar-sweetened drinks — including chocolate milk and other flavored milks — should be avoided altogether, according to the panel.

The recommendations also cast a skeptical eye on trendy drinks, such as plant-based, non-dairy milks derived from almonds, rice, oats, or other grains. These other “milks” aren’t good nutritional substitutes for cow’s milk in children’s diets, the organizations said.

Most parents are not aware that “plant-based milks are not a 1-to-1 substitute for cow milk, and that they provide no unique nutritional value,” the panel added. Also rejected as nutritionally inferior are so-called ‘toddler formulas’, marketed to young parents under brand names such as Enfagrow, Parent’s Choice, Similac Go and Grow, and Nestle Nido.

The recommendations are intended for healthy children and do not address medical situations in which specific nutrition guidance is needed to manage a health condition, warned the panel.