What Should Your Baby and Toddlers Be Drinking?

By Charlyn Fargo

September 20, 2019 6 min read

Breast milk, infant formula, water and plain milk are part of a new set of comprehensive beverage recommendations for children. The recommendations come from a well-respected group — the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association.

The groups caution against flavored milks (chocolate and strawberry), sugary and low-calorie sweetener beverages, caffeinated beverages and plant-based, non-dairy milks.

The bottom line? What kids drink from birth can have a huge impact on their overall health and development, the authorities say.

Here are the recommendations by age:

— Zero-6 months: breast milk or infant formula.

— 6-12 months: breast milk or infant formula; small amounts of plain drinking water introduced once solid foods are part of the infant's diet.

— 12-24 months: whole milk and plain drinking water.

— 2-5 years: skim or low-fat milk and plain drinking water.

A couple of things stand out to me. Despite all the uproar that we should switch to whole milk, that isn't what the panel found. We've always recommended whole milk for children up to the age of 2 to help develop their brains, but, beyond that, skim or 2% is best. In addition, dairy is still best. Plant-based milks, such as almond, soy, coconut or even the new oat, aren't best for children and aren't recommended.

Some of my friends were surprised that juice isn't part of the recommendations for children. If consumed at all, it should be limited to a half cup of 100% fruit juice for children ages 12 months to 5 years and none at all for children under 12 months. Just like for adults, whole fruit is always preferred over juice. And water is the best bet.

I'm happy to see the groups come together on these recommendations. Childhood obesity continues to rise and be a concern. Beverages are a significant source of calories from the time children are born through the first few years. Knowing what a child should be drinking can help families raise healthy children.

Q and A

Q: Does decaf coffee really have no caffeine?

A: If your decaf coffee keeps you awake at night, you might know the answer to that question. While decaf coffee has less caffeine than regular, it is not caffeine-free. A study that tested decaffeinated coffees found that most 8-ounce cups of decaf had 9 to 14 milligrams of caffeine (as opposed to 85 milligrams in an 8-ounce cup of regular coffee). To put that in perspective, dark chocolate has about 12 milligrams of caffeine. Decaf is a great way to cut back on caffeine, if that's what you need to do, but just know that decaf isn't completely caffeine-free.


Chicken always seems to be a go-to when you need a quick, healthy dinner. Here's a recipe for Lemon-Garlic Chicken With Green Beans. It's from the latest issue of EatingWell magazine.


1 pound chicken breast cutlets

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, divided

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

6 cups green beans, trimmed

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus leaves for garnish

1/4 cup unsalted chicken broth

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup pine nuts

Lemon wedges for garnish

Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken, turning once, until a thermometer reads 165 degrees F, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and green beans to the pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, lemon zest and thyme, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, wine and lemon juice, and return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 1 minute more. Serve topped with pine nuts, more thyme and lemon wedges, if desired. Serves 4 (serving size: 3 ounces chicken and 1 cup green beans).

Per serving: 296 calories; 27 grams protein; 11 grams carbohydrates; 16 grams fat (2 grams saturated); 63 milligrams cholesterol; 4 grams fiber; 4 grams total sugars (zero grams added); 652 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Photo credit: Foundry at Pixabay

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