Like fizzy drinks, fruit juice and squash can be high in sugar, which can cause tooth decay. Because sugary drinks can be high in energy (calories), having these drinks too often can also lead to weight gain and obesity.
The best drinks to give children are plain water and milk.
If your children do have sugary drinks, limit these to mealtimes rather than giving them as snacks in between meals.
Read more about sugar and tooth decay.
Drinks with free sugars
The kind of sugar we eat too much of is known as "free sugar". Free sugars are any sugars added to food or drinks, or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices.
Drinks with free sugars include:
- fruit juices and smoothies
- juice drinks
- fizzy drinks
- flavoured milks
These drinks can cause tooth decay, and most contain very few nutrients. They can also be filling, which could reduce your child's appetite for foods that contain the nutrients they need.
Diluting squash well with water will make it less sugary.
Unsweetened 100% fruit juice or smoothies
When fruit is juiced or blended, the sugar contained in the fruit is released, which can damage your child's teeth and may cause tooth decay.
However, fruit juices contain valuable vitamins and minerals.
Government advice is to limit the amount of fruit juice and smoothie we have to a combined total of 150ml a day (1 portion).
150ml of unsweetened, fresh 100% fruit juice or smoothie can count as 1 of your 5 daily portions of fruit and veg.
Healthier drinks for children
If your children like drinking milk, this is a good choice, especially if they don't like plain water. Milk isn't bad for teeth. It also contains calcium, as well as other vitamins and minerals.
After your baby's first birthday, whole (full fat) cows' milk can be given as a drink alongside a balanced and varied diet.
Children can have semi-skimmed milk from the age of 2, as long as they're good eaters and growing well.
Skimmed and 1% milk aren't suitable for children under 5.
Milk alternatives, such as soya drinks, can be fed to children from the age of 1 as part of a healthy, balanced diet. If you give your baby milk alternatives, make sure they are unsweetened and fortified with calcium.
Children under 5 years shouldn't have rice drinks as they may contain unsafe levels of arsenic.
You can try making your own milkshakes and smoothies by blending soft fruit, such as banana, strawberries or mango, with milk or yoghurt. But remember, children should have no more than 150ml in total of fruit juice or smoothie.
For information about drinks for children under 5, see Babies and toddlers: drinks and cups.
Read the answers to more questions about children's health.
Page last reviewed: 24 May 2018
Next review due: 24 May 2021