Wondering about the healthiest drinks to serve your preschooler this summer? Dietitian Dalhia Campbell tells us her top picks.
Kids are supposed to drink six to eight glasses of fluid a day, so what should we be serving up? Dalhia Campbell, dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, tells us her top five.
It’s sugar-free and very hydrating, making water the healthiest drink around for Dalhia.
But what if your kid isn’t particularly keen on what comes out of the tap?
“Show your child that water doesn’t have to mean boring,” says Dalhia. “So add chopped fruit for flavour, like lime, orange, watermelon or raspberries. Serve a jug chilled with fun ice cubes. Funky water bottles help too.” We like Polar Gear Disney Minnie the Mouse Rocks the Dots bottle and the Tesco infuser hydration bottle.
Ring the changes with sparkling water or soda water too, which are just as healthy.
And make sure your kids see you drinking water. “It’s no good producing cans of cola for you and expecting your kids to stick to water. They won’t want to drink it.”
2. Fresh milk
An important source of calcium, B-vitamins and protein, cow’s milk can help your child develop healthy bones and teeth. “Although milk does contain sugars from the lactose, it’s not harmful to teeth,” says Dalhia, who recommends introducing semi-skimmed milk to children once they turn two years.
3. Diluted fruit juice
As long as it’s diluted, fruit juice is absolutely fine to accompany a picnic or other meal with a glass – but do make sure your little one doesn’t sip juice between meals because of the risk of damage to teeth from the sugars and acid in the juice. “Juicing releases the sugars from the whole fruit and this can damage the teeth if drunk in quantity,” says Dalhia.
In terms of portion size, stick to a small glass – about 150ml – and dilute it at least one part water to one part juice.
4. Sugar-free squash
Lots of kids love squash, which makes it a useful drink for hot days. And Dalhia gives it a tick because it contains no sugar. “But rather than having it as a daily drink, make sure it stays an occasional treat,” she says.
“This is because sugar-free squash also contain artificial sweeteners, which have a hyper-sweet taste – sweeter even than sugar. It’s better for children to get used to a less sweet taste.”
5. Smoothies made with milk
Try whizzing up a smoothie using milk. “It’s a good source of calcium, and can also be a good way to get fruit and vegetables into children,” says Dalhia.
“While smoothies are not very thirst-quenching, they do add fluid and if your child doesn’t tend to eat much in hot weather, they’re a good way of adding extra nutrition.”
However, when fruit is broken down, sugars are released – so as with diluted juice, stick to serving a smoothie at mealtimes rather than between meals.
But watch out for…
1. Sparkling drinks – even the sugar-free ones!
Whether they contain sugar or artificial sweeteners, keep these an only very occasional treat. “This is because fizzy drinks can cause dental erosion whether or not they contain sugar,” says Dalhia.
2. The labels
Do read the label on the drink before you buy. “A drink that’s high in sugar has more than 11.25g of sugar per 100ml,” says Dalhia. “A low-sugar drink has less than 2.5g per 100ml.”
3. Caffeinated drinks, like cola and iced tea
Caffeine is a stimulant, which isn’t suitable for young children, according to the NHS, plus these drinks often contain sugar too. Makes that jug of water sound even more inviting – drink up!
Liked this feature? Find out more about healthy eating with > How to help your child eat a healthy diet