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Drinking Well for 1-4 Year Olds

Posted Jun 18th 2015

What should children aged 1-4 years drink?

Tapwater.jpgChildren should be encouraged to drink tap water if they are thirsty.  Water quenches thirst, does not spoil the appetite, and does not damage teeth.

★ Milk is a good drink for 1-4 year olds but it is also a ‘food’ and it is important that milk consumption is gradually reduced as food intake at meals and snacks increases. Whole cow’s milk is suitable as a main drink for most children from 12 months of age. Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced gradually after the age of 2 years, provided that the child is a good eater and has a varied diet. Skimmed milk is not suitable as the main drink for children under 5 years of age.

★ Children over the age of 1 year should not rely on fortified, sweetened growing up milks for their nutrients. Children should be encouraged to get the nutrients they need from good food as they grow up, and not rely on milk drinks which may blunt their appetite at meal times.

Milk.jpgHow much milk should toddlers drink?

★ Over 1 year of age it is likely that toddlers will have milk as a drink with snacks between meals, and a milk drink before bed. After 1 year of age it is important that toddlers do not fill up on milk before they eat their meals and it is useful to offer diluted 100% fruit juice or water with meals.

– On average, a 1-2 year old is likely to need no more than 400ml of milk a day as a drink (about 2/3 pint).

– On average, a 3-4 year old is likely to need no more  than 300ml of milk a day as a drink (about 1/2 pint).

★ If children refuse to drink milk when they are toddlers, they can still get the calcium and fat-soluble vitamins that milk provides from other dairy foods. Toddlers need about 400mg of calcium a day.

–  A bowl of full-fat yoghurt (70g) provides 140mg calcium.

–  A portion of custard (60g) provides 90mg calcium.

–  A bowl of milk pudding (eg. rice pudding) (90g) provides 120mg calcium.

–  A small portion of cheese (15g) provides 120mg calcium.

There is also calcium in other foods and dishes, so it is not necessary to give 1-4 year olds large quantities of foods such as yoghurt and fromage frais if they don’t drink milk.

What about other drinks?

Glass of OJ.jpg★ Diluted 100% fruit juice is a useful source of vitamin C. Children should be encouraged to have a glass of diluted fruit juice (half fruit juice and half water) with their main meal or with breakfast, as fruit juice may also help the body to absorb iron.

★ Children should be discouraged from having fizzy drinks and squashes (including fruit squashes and fruit juice drinks) – including diet, non-diet, no-added-sugar and low-sugar varieties – as these can erode the tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay. Also, they provide little in the way of nutrients, and children who drink them frequently may have less appetite to eat well at meal times.

★ Children should not be given sweet drinks (such as fruit juice, squashes and other soft drinks) in a bottle. An open cup or beaker which does not require the child to suck should be used instead, to protect the teeth. These drinks should only be given with meals.

★ If children are given soft drinks (such as squashes) containing the intense sweetener saccharin, these should be diluted more than they would be for an adult or older child – for example, 1 part squash to at least 10 parts water. Also, it is recommended that the amount of dilutable drinks that contain cyclamate (E952) given to young children should be limited to no more than three beakers a day. However, we would recommend avoiding artificially sweetened drinks completely.

★ Tea and coffee are not suitable drinks for under-5s as they contain tannic acid which interferes with iron absorption.

Information courtesy of