How many soft or fizzy drinks can children have a day?

There is no recommended number of soft and fizzy drinks that children can have. However, as part of a healthy, balanced diet, it's important that they don't have too many sugary drinks, especially between meals.

Sugar, drinks and children's health

Sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruit and milk, but many foods contain added sugars to make them sweeter. This includes:

  • sweets
  • cakes
  • chocolate
  • soft and fizzy drinks

Children aged 4-18 get around 15% of their daily energy intake from added sugar. A large portion of this comes from soft and fizzy drinks. Sugars added to food shouldn't make up more than 5% of daily energy intake for those aged from 2 upwards.

The recommended maximum amount of sugar children should have each day is:

  • 4-6 years old: 19g (5 sugar cubes)
  • 7-10 years old: 24g (6 sugar cubes)
  • 11 years and up: 30g (7 cubes)  

Soft and fizzy drinks can be high in sugar and have few nutrients. Some types of sugary fizzy drinks contain the equivalent of 8 heaped teaspoons of sugar, which can damage children's teeth.

Children who have a lot of sugary soft and fizzy drinks are more likely to put on weight and be overweight or obese.

Cutting out your child's soft and fizzy drinks

Children can get used to the sweet taste of drinks at an early age. Try watering down soft drinks such as squashes to, for example, one part squash to at least 10 parts water.

Another good way to reduce the amount of sugar your child consumes is to reduce the number of sugary drinks they have. Swap sugary drinks like squash and fizzy drinks for water, lower-fat milks, diet, sugar-free and no-added-sugar drinks instead.

You should also limit fruit juice and smoothies to one small (150ml) glass a day. Remember to limit fruit juices to mealtimes, as they can cause tooth decay. Watch out for drinks that say "juice drink" on the pack, as they are unlikely to count towards your 5 A DAY and can be high in sugar.

What about fruit juice?

Fruit juice contains lots of vitamins that are good for children's health. However, it also contains a kind of sugar that can damage teeth.

If your child drinks fruit juice, it's better for them to drink this at mealtimes as well.

Drinks between meals

The best drinks for children to have at any time are water and milk. This includes drinks between meals.

Water and milk don't contain added sugar that can damage your child's teeth. Milk also contains important vitamins and minerals, such as calcium.

For more information about children's drinks, see Are squash and pure fruit juice better for children than fizzy drinks?.

Read the answers to more questions about dental health.

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Page last reviewed: 30/06/2015

Next review due: 30/04/2018