Before having children of our own, we had an incredibly grandiose idea about what we were going to do, how we were going to parent, and after watching hours and hours of parenting fail videos – what we were “never, ever” going to do.
But let’s be real: it’s always easier to parent before you have little ones or after they’ve flown the coop when all you’re left with is the rosy memories of parenthood.
As parents, I would wager to say that one of our global immediate goals from the point of conception is to keep our kids safe.
Four times over, I watched my wife sweat over her diet and stay moderately active, making her best efforts to try and control her stress levels. Once your baby has left your body and you hold them in your arms – it becomes quantum harder to manage their safety. From sleeping habits to car seats, from solid foods to stranger danger, the world is full of incalculable uncertainties and we all just do our best to make decisions that we feel are the healthiest for our children. Beyond all of that – parenting is about choosing your battles.
From pre-conception until present day, Jen and I have always considered ourselves ‘foodies’ and making sure that our children have whole, well-rounded meals has been a major priority for us. It’s partially why we started Think Outside the Lunchbox, so that we could share our healthy-ish, kid-friendly meal ideas with other like-minded parents. We both come from families that placed a major emphasis on clean-ish eating and drinking; in my family we were never offered sugary drinks and milk appeared on our table in one color: white.
It’s with this in mind that I’ve recently partnered with Healthy Eating Research to help share some much-anticipated new information.
For the first time ever, groups like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association have joined forces and made CONSISTENT recommendations for beverage consumption for kids aged 0-5.
If you’re like us, you tend to pick and choose your parenting philosophies from various groups. What works for your family may or may not work for another – but when the research is from this many incredibly well-respected bodies, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.
It is critically important to establish healthy patterns in early childhood to prevent future health issues like dental cavities or diet-related diseases like obesity and type 2 Diabetes, and to ensure optimal development and health. Research shows that what children drink from birth through age five has a BIG impact on their health, for now and for years to come.
This past year our oldest daughter was diagnosed with systemic Lupus, which is an auto-immune disease, the effects of which can seriously damage the kidneys. It started us on a healthy track to make sure that our children were getting enough water, and sure enough, they weren’t. Even though water makes up 95% of the fluids our children intake in a given day, even on our best days they technically weren’t pulling in enough hydration for their ages.
Add in summer time, outdoor play and the ounces they need just to stay healthy start piling up. We created a water chart for each kid and every time they finished a bottle of water (refillable, we’re not environmental terrorists), they got to color in a droplet. At the end of the week they would get a small treat or reward for filling their chart.
The fact that we’ve trained our children’s palates to love and desire water is important because water is integral to a child’s diet:
These are the guidelines that HealthyDrinksHealthyKids.org have offered as a consensus of consumption:
- All kids (but really all kids under 5) should avoid drinking any flavored milk, toddler formula, plant-based/non-dairy milks (unless diet restricts it), caffeinated beverages INCLUDING sugar-free or diet or “light” drinks sweetened with stevia or sucralose, as they provide zero unique nutritional value.
- Babies 0-6 months need only breast milk or infant formula
- Babies 6-12 months, in addition to breast milk or infant formula: offer small amounts of water once solid foods are introduced.
- Toddlers 12-24 months need whole milk, water; offer very small amounts of 100% fruit juice –no more than 4 oz per day. As parents Jen and I never give our toddlers juice, opting instead for whole fruit; but if you want to give your baby 100% fruit juice, you can also cut fruit juice with ⅓ water.
- Ages 2-5 years need lowfat or skim milk and water, small amounts of 100% fruit juice (no more than 4 oz for kids aged 2-3 years and no more than 4-6 oz for kids aged 4-5 years.
If you’re reading this and are beginning to realize that your kids are hooked on juice or flavored milk, take the initiative to wean them off! You can do this by making gradual changes, such as adding water to juice or plain milk to flavored milk (start with ¼ of the cup being water and every day add more and more – their taste buds will adapt). We’ve noticed that with transitions like these it normally takes about two weeks – so stick to your guns and it will get easier!
You can also set boundaries as to when your kids can have certain beverages… for example our 5 ½ year old, 8 and 9 ½ year olds can only have juice at birthday parties or the very occasional special breakfast. The Healthy Eating Research panel recommends that kids only consume milk at mealtimes and stick to water in between – this is exactly what Jen and I do with our kids (and we only allow one cup of milk, no refills) and not only has it cut our grocery bill, it also makes our kids less FULL from milk, pushing them to eat more dinner with less waste. Win/Win.
It’s never too early to start good eating and drinking habits with your kids – the results will pay dividends when they’re older!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a sponsored campaign on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Learn more about them HERE.