What is Your Child Drinking? Back »

Children’s beverage choices are learned early in life and play an important role in their overall well-being.

Written by Marjorie Zastrow, former SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Specialist.


As a parent, one of the most important roles in your life is to teach your child healthy eating habits. Not only do you provide the food for your child to eat each day, but you also serve as a healthy role model to encourage the choices they make. Consider what beverages you are offering at home and reflect on the type of role modeling you are showing.

The beverages we consume can provide a significant amount of nutrients for growth and development, or they can be a source of a substantial amount of empty calories. A webinar entitled Kids Are Drinking What? by the National Dairy Council and Dairy Research institute Data utilizing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), discusses the decrease in milk consumption from school aged youth steadily into their teen years. It noted half of teens and a fourth of children aged 6 – 12 years did not drink any milk. It was also highlighted that as children age into teen years, portion sizes of sodas consumed dramatically increased.

Recommended Dairy Consumption

The USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend youth consume the following for the dairy group:

  • Children 2 – 3 years: consume 2 cups of dairy per day
  • Children 4 – 8 years: 2 ½ cups of dairy per day
  • Individuals age 9 and older: 3 cups per day

Low or non-fat dairy products are an important component of a healthy diet. Further information on the importance of the role dairy plays in your diet may be found at ChooseMyPlate.gov or the National Dairy Council.

Nutritional Benefits

By choosing an 8 ounce portion of low-fat (1% = 102 calories) or fat free milk (83 calories) as one serving, you are consuming nine essential nutrients and receiving the following daily values based on a 2,000 calorie diet:

  • 30% calcium
  • 25% Vitamin D
  • 24% Riboflavin
  • 20% phosphorous
  • 16% protein
  • 13% Vitamin B12
  • 11% potassium
  • 10% Vitamin A
  • 10% Niacin

Current USDA guidelines indicate that there is moderate evidence that consumption of milk and milk products is associated with:

  • improved bone health
  • reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • reduced risk for type 2 diabetes
  • lower blood pressure in adults

Children’s beverage choices are learned early in life and play an important role in their overall wellbeing. Data from the NHANES 2009 – 2010 survey indicate that youth who drink more milk at younger ages consume fewer sweetened beverages later in life. As a parent or caregiver it is important that you offer nutritious and wholesome choices for children. This will give them the best start in life and provide them with a healthy lifestyle to model in their later years.

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