Choosing Healthy Drinks for Children - dummies

By Pat Crocker

Start giving your kids juices and smoothies now, and you’ll establish habits that will last them a lifetime. Infancy and childhood are times of rapid cell division and growth. Requirements for all nutrients are higher during this stage of life than at any other developmental phase.

In fact, a baby is expected to triple its birth weight and increase its length and head size by 50 percent by the end of the first year of life. This accelerated expansion of muscles, bones, and tissue continues through childhood and puberty.

Infants require up to 18 times the number of calories that sustain adults. The best “drink” you can give an infant is breast milk — it provides energy, protein, and improved immune function. Mothers who breast-feed are giving their babies the very best start in life, and breast-feeding mothers need the best nutrients for their own bodies and the milk they’re producing.

Requirements for fatty acids are higher in infants than in adults due to their role in the development of the central nervous system. Polyunsaturated fats and fats high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in plant foods, are essential to the diets of both the breast-feeding mother and her baby. Although babies can’t drink smoothies, breast-feeding mothers can supplement their omega-3 fatty acids by adding flax seeds, walnuts, tofu, and even fish oil to boost this important nutrient.

As children grow, vegetable protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are all essential in order to meet their needs. The energy needs for children ages 1 to 3 are still very high, running around 990 calories per day. After age 3, their needs drops off so that between the ages of 6 and the time they hit puberty, kids’ caloric needs are based on weight, height, and physical activity.

Children ages 1 to 3 can be given pure vegetable or fruit juices that have been diluted with an equal amount of pure water. Water can be gradually reduced in the pure juice drinks for children ages 4 and older. After age 4, you can start to introduce high-energy smoothie drinks with vegetable protein from nuts, seeds, bran, avocadoes, wheat germ, and whey protein.