Most children would choose sugary soda over water any day. In fact, soft drinks — which are linked to tooth decay, skin problems, and poor concentration in kids — constitute the biggest source of refined sugar in the American diet, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer-education nonprofit in Washington D.C. Here's a cheat sheet of alternatives to encourage early on.
If you choose just one drink for your child, make it plain water. Naturally sugar-free, water replenishes moisture lost in sweat, helps the body eliminate waste, and transports oxygen and nutrients in the bloodstream. Plus, kids who drink water often get used to flavorless thirst quenching.
“Drink your milk” is still good advice. Organic milk is packed with vitamin D and calcium for strong bones, protein for energy, and scores of other nutrients crucial for still-growing bodies. Even if you opt for nondairy alternatives, always choose organic ones with no added sugar.
In moderation, juice supplies kids with beneficial vitamins and minerals. For instance, 8 ounces of fresh-squeezed orange juice contains 25 mcg vitamin A, 124 mg vitamin C, and 496 mg potassium. But because it's also loaded with natural sugars, limit kids to 1 cup of 100 percent fruit juice per day. And avoid “juice drinks,” which can contain a lot of calories but very little actual fruit.
The risk of obesity rockets up to 60 percent in kids who drink just one 12-ounce soda per day, and many sodas contain the stimulant caffeine. The biggest reason to nix soft drinks: Sodas — even diet ones — push out better choices because kids will pick them first.