When it comes to your children’s nutrition, chances are you spend more time worrying about what they eat than you do about what they drink. But the fl uids they consume can also impact their health.

It’s no surprise that water, calorie-free drinks, nonfat or low-fat milk and 100 percent fruit juice (in moderation) are the healthiest beverages for children. A host of other choices, including high-sugar beverages, soda, sports and energy drinks and too much juice, should be on the no-go list.

Red Flag Beverages

According to Dr. Reggie Washington, Chief Medical Officer for Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and a nationally recognized expert in childhood obesity, “For optimal health, limit the following beverages or avoid giving them to your children:”

  • Sugary drinks. Children who drink one or more sugary beverages a day, including soda, sports drinks and fruitbased beverages that are not 100 percent juice, are likely to be overweight or obese and develop habits that are difficult to break.
  • Juice. While a little 100 percent fruit juice is good for children, too much can lead to tooth decay and obesity. To counter these problems, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents limit juice consumption to the following amounts: 6 months and younger — no juice; 1 to 6 years old — no more than 4 to 6 ounces per day; 7 to 18 years old — no more than 8 to 12 ounces per day. Note: FDA tests have found traces of arsenic in apple juice. As a precaution, consider limiting your children’s consumption of this juice
  • Soft drinks.Soda consumption contributes to several health problems in children, including lower bone mass density. This can increase their risk for bone fractures, weight gain and tooth enamel erosion. Remember that soda lacks calcium, which is important to prevent future bone loss, especially in women. Young women who substitute soda for calcium-rich beverages run the risk of future problems.
  • Energy drinks. These beverages contain stimulants such as guarana, taurine and large amounts of caffeine, none of which are appropriate for young children or adolescents. Researchers have linked caffeine in particular to dangerous side effects that could harm a child’s developing neurological and cardiovascular function. In addition, some energy drinks contain more than 500 milligrams of caffeine, which is equal to the amount in 14 cans of caffeinated soda.

Unsafe Container Choices

What your children drink out of is just as important as what they drink. Keep these points in mind:

  • Make sure baby bottles and other food and beverage containers are BPA-free. Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that hardens polycarbonate plastic, is used in many food and beverage containers. Although researchers have not done human studies of the effects of BPA, widespread exposure has raised concerns regarding the impact the chemical might have on humans. Researchers found it can affect the endocrine function of young animals.

    Take these steps to reduce your child’s exposure to BPA:

    1. Use opaque baby bottles and those that are certified or identified as BPA-free.
    2. Do not use clear plastic baby bottles or beverage containers with the recycling number 7 and a PC (polycarbonate) stamp. Plastics that contain BPA often have these indicators.
  • Limit sippy cup use. Tooth decay among young children ages 2 to 5 is increasing. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, giving children sippy cups fi lled with sugary drinks is part of the problem, as is overuse of the cups. Sippy cups should be used only as a short-term transitional device that moves children from a bottle to a glass or cup. Don’t let your children use a sippy cup for months or years at a time. And to protect your children’s teeth, fill sippy cups with water instead of sugary drinks.