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Milk and water are healthy beverages for kids.

What children drink can have a major effect on how many calories they consume and how much calcium they get to build strong bones.

That said, milk and water should be your main "go-to" drinks for toddlers and preschoolers.

(See Infant feeding for ways to encourage mothers’ nursing efforts for babies.)

Giving the Right Drinks in the Right Amounts

Here are some helpful hints about how much of which kinds of beverages kids should get at what age — and which drinks to avoid altogether.

Make way for water.

Don't forget the importance of plain old water! Instead of sugary drinks like juice or soda, quench toddler and preschooler thirst with water in-between meals. Water keeps them hydrated, and doesn't fill their small stomachs with empty calories.

Make room for milk.

Here are some guidelines on what kind of milk to serve to infants, toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Infants (up to 12 months old) should get only breast milk and/or formula—never cow’s milk.
  • From 1 year (12 months) to 2 years old (24 months), stick to whole milk—toddlers need the extra dietary fats to help their brain and bodies develop and grow like they should. (For children between 1 year to 2 years of age who are overweight or have a family history of obesity, the use of reduced fat (2%) milk is appropriate.)
  • For 2- to 5- year-olds, serve only fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk (unless otherwise directed by the child’s health care provider).

A word on milk: Don’t overdo it. Kids only need 16-24 fluid ounces (2-3 cups) a day. Other than milk, water is the best choice when children are thirsty.

Juice news you can use.

Babies don’t need any juice at all. And 4-6 ounces of juice a day (that's less than one cup) is more than enough for children over age 1. Just make sure it’s 100% fruit juice — not fruit drink, punch, or cocktail.

Say "so long" to sugary drinks.

Wondering how bad a couple of sugary drinks here and there can be? Consider this: A 12-ounce non-diet, carbonated soft drink contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. And kids who guzzle down one or more 12-ounce sweetened soft drinks per day are 60% more likely to be obese.

Try to keep healthy beverages for kids, like water, available.

When you can:

  • Offer water all day
    and during meals.
  • Don’t serve sugary drinks.
  • Allow one serving
    (4-6 ounces) of 100%
    fruit juice per day.
  • Give low-fat or non-fat milk for kids 2 and up.