Medical Experts Want Kids to Drink Less Sugar

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A new set of guidelines aimed at children 5 and under hopes to curb sugar intake.

For the first time ever, top medical organizations have joined together to release guidelines about what young children should and should not drink. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry all participated in the creation of the guidelines.

The new guidelines state that breast milk, infant formula, water, and plain milk are ideal beverages for young children. They warn that other popular beverages can be a source of added sugars in a child's diet, such as flavored milks (i.e. strawberry and chocolate), sugar- and low-calorie sweetened beverages, formulas marketed toward toddlers, caffeinated beverages, and even plant-based/dairy-free milks (i.e. oat, rice, soy, coconut, etc).

Pediatrician Natalie Muth, a representative for the American Academy of Pediatrics on the panel that created the guidelines, said in a press release,

"I know what a child drinks can be almost as important as what they eat, in terms of a healthy diet. This is especially true for very young children... Children learn which flavors they prefer at a very early age – as young as 9 months – and these preferences can last through childhood and adulthood."

There is a lot of room for improvement, with research showing that American kids consume on average 12 ounces of sugary beverages per day, when dietary guidelines have stated they should have no more than 8 ounces per week. NPR reported earlier this year that, "by one estimate, kids and teens get about 17 percent of their calories from added sugars — and about half of those calories come from drinks."

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, pointed out that nearly 40,000 Americans die annually from heart problems related to sugary beverages. "This is unhealthy and unacceptable, and the seismic shift in our culture needed to change this status quo must start with our kids."

The following graphic offers an overview of the guidelines, and detailed directions can be found at Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids.

healthy beverage guidelines

Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids (press release) /via