Boom or Bust? Kids' Favorite Beverages Not Always Healthy

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Health-conscious parents often worry about what their kids are eating. Those greasy fast food French fries kids love might be cringe-worthy to parents, but it's not just the foods kids request that parents should monitor. 

Adults and children alike have favorite beverages that may or may not be healthy. 

But which beverages are beneficial and which should be avoided? The answer to that isn't always absolute. The following breakdown can help health-conscious parents determine which drinks their kids can continue to enjoy as well as which ones they should limit or avoid altogether.

Sweetened Drinks

Sweetened drinks can include some fruit punches and other fruit drinks that aren't called "juice." Labels on these beverages often claim "Made with real fruit juice." While that might be true, they're all too often made with a lot of  sugar as well. Typically, these drinks do provide some nutritional value, including some vitamins and minerals. However, these drinks are often high in calories, and the amount of vitamins and minerals provided is minimal. The American Heart Association suggests the less adults and children have of these drinks, the better off they are. Still, the drinks are not entirely devoid of nutritional value, so parents might want to decide if they'll allow kids to drink sweetened drinks in moderation or remove them from the refrigerator entirely.

Sodas

Sodas have taken quite a public relations hit in the 21st century, and that's likely because they provide no nutritional value. What's more, many sodas provide more sugar than a child's body needs, which will lead to weight gain and possibly even cavities or tooth decay. Children typically love soda, so parents might find it difficult to stop kids' soda consumption entirely. However, soda's status as a sugary, high-calorie drink makes it one beverage most parents will want their kids to avoid. If kids must drink soda, try diet soda instead. Though diet soda also provides no nutritional value, at the very least it's a lower-calorie alternative. 

Milk

Milk is perhaps the most difficult beverage for parents to gauge. Many parents assume all milk is the same. However, whole milk and 2 percent milk contains extra fat the body does not need. All milk provides valuable nutrients like calcium and protein, contributing to strong bones and teeth while helping build strong muscles. But when choosing which milk to give kids, choose fat-free (formerly skim) or 1 percent milk, each of which provides the same amount of nutrients as whole or 2 percent without also providing unnecessary fat.

Even chocolate milk can be a healthy beverage option for kids. Just be sure to apply the same principles mentioned above (namely, choose nonfat or low-fat chocolate milk) and keep in mind chocolate also comes with extra calories thanks to sugar. So monitor how much chocolate milk kids are drinking.

Water

Kids might be indifferent to water, but water helps maintain a healthy body temperature and can even make skin look better. Water's also important in digestion, helping the body digest food. Kids should drink water every day. In addition, parents who are concerned about their children's weight should encourage them to drink more water. The symptoms of dehydration mimic those of hunger, so kids who don't drink enough water could be mistaking mild dehydration for hunger. Drinking more water might just help kids avoid eating an extra snack or two, indirectly helping them lose weight.

To learn more ways to help kids get healthier, visit the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.