Say No to Soda: Healthy Drinks for Kids

Today's most popular carbonated drinks contain two ingredients that put you and your children at a greater risk for cavities: sugar and acid. According to the Wisconsin Dental Association (WDA), the sugar in soda mixes with bacteria in your mouth, creating even stronger germs that wear away teeth over time. Even sugar-free sodas contain enough acid on their own to cause tooth problems, too. So, it's no wonder that drinking soda is one of the leading causes of tooth decay.

Luckily, soda isn't the only delicious beverage out there for your family. Healthy drinks for kids can satisfy their thirst and promote better dental health at the same time.

Tap Water

As a matter of fact, the best beverage you can give your children is tap water. Why? It usually has added fluoride, which helps ward off tooth decay by strengthening the enamel on their teeth. Water's zero-sugar content also makes it one of the healthiest drinks for kids available. It promotes neither tooth decay nor erosion.

Not every city or municipality adds fluoride to its tap, and tap water isn't great to drink everywhere you go. If the tap water in your area doesn't have added fluoride, or you think it doesn't taste very good, give your kids bottled water instead. Bottled water that contains between 0.6mg and 1.0 mg of fluoride per liter often lets you know with the message, "Drinking fluoridated water may reduce the risk of tooth decay," printed on its label. If the label doesn't provide any clues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends calling the manufacturer and asking about its fluoride content.

Milk

Milk is another healthy drink option for kids that promotes good oral health. High in calcium and protein, milk is a good source of phosphorus, which helps to strengthen the enamel in your growing child's teeth just like fluoride, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site. If your child won't drink plain milk, you can try adding a small amount of chocolate to it to enhance its flavor. Or, make a compromise by letting your child drink four ounces of chocolate milk and four ounces of plain milk at mealtime. If he is allergic or lactose intolerant, you can also serve no-sugar-added soy milk, fortified with calcium. The added calcium and lack of sugar can provide the same benefit to your family's dental well-being.

Tea

You might be surprised to see tea on the list of healthy drinks for kids. Although black tea can stain teeth and sugary iced teas facilitate tooth decay, plain and unsweetened tea can actually benefit your children's mouth. Tea contains polyphenols that help fight bacteria, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. It's definitely an acquired taste, so your child might not warm up to it at first. But if your child does enjoy the taste of (sugar-free) green or black tea, it's a good option for warming up on a chilly day. Using fluoridated tap water to make it is even better.

Fruit Juice

Juice, particularly 100-percent fruit juice, can have a healthy glow. When it comes to your family's teeth, however, it's best to treat juice as you would soda, and only offer it in moderation. The WDA recommends no more than four to six ounces of 100-percent juice per day, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends only giving it to kids at mealtime. Keep in mind that whole fruits are usually a better option than juice, and an easy time to discourage sweet drinks is in the morning. No soda tastes very good right after a few minutes of brushing, and fruit-flavored toothpastes like Colgate 2 in 1 can tide them over.

Good beverage habits start at a young age. Water is always the most tooth-friendly pick, so encourage your kids to drink it as soon as they let you know they're thirsty.