The toddler years mark an important transition from formula or breast milk to other beverages, such as juice, water and milk. Although consumption of liquids may seem harmless, excessive intake of unhealthy fats and sugars in drinks is common among toddlers. Serve your toddler's beverages in an open cup or a cup with a straw, because use of cups with spouts or sipppy cups can cause speech problems and cavities.
Milk-- Nature's Best Food for Your Toddler
Toddlers should have two to three 8-ounce servings of milk per day, according to "American Family Physician," which is the official journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, both of which are crucial during the toddler years. You probably don't need to be concerned about the fat content of milk at this point, if you limit your toddler's intake to 24 ounces. per day. However, if your toddler has weight problems, discuss using 2-percent milk with your family physician.
She Needs Lots of Water
Toddlers are bundles of energy, which means that they need to stay hydrated, particularly in warm weather. Try to ensure that your toddler drinks about 1.3 liters, or five cups of water, per day. Most drinking water also contains fluoride, which will strengthen your toddler's teeth. If your toddler is used to drinking juice or soda, you might have a hard time getting him to accept plain water. You can increase water's appeal by adding a tiny bit of juice while your toddler is watching. Cold water may also be more appealing than warmer tap water, so keep a pitcher in the fridge for use throughout the day.
Juice -- But Not Too Much
Toddlers can be ravenous juice drinkers. Although some juice is healthy, it is certainly not necessary for your toddler's health. Excessive intake of juice may cause diarrhea, dental problems, failure to thrive or weight gain. It may also decrease absorption of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium. Limit your toddler's juice intake to 4 to 6 ounces each day -- and only serve him 100 percent juice that dos not have any added sugars. You can also reduce the negative effects of juice and increase your toddler's water intake by diluting it. For example, give your toddler a half cup of juice combined with half a cup of water.
Sorry -- No Soda or Caffeine
Water and milk should make up most of your toddler's beverage intake. Avoid serving your toddler soda, which contains high amounts of sugar and very few nutrients. According to the Nemours Foundation, you should avoid serving soda to young toddlers as well as preschoolers. Establishing a soda habit during childhood may contribute to obesity and other health problems later in life. You should also avoid serving your toddler other caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea.
- Children's Healthcare of Atlanta: Toddlers and Beverages
- "Giving Your Child the Best Nutrition"; 2006
- BabyCenter: How Much Water Should My Toddler Drink Every Day?
- American Family Physician: Nutrition in Toddlers; Richard E. Allen and Anya L. Meyers; 2006
- The Nemours Foundation: Healthy Drinks for Kids; Mary L. Gavin; 2011