Children under 24 months are sweet enough without adding sugar!

Dietary guidelines for Americans are issued every 5 years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services. The 2020-2025 guidelines include updated information about added sugar for children younger than 24 months and recommend these children do not receive any added sugars. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated labels to include information on whether a food has added sugars and how much. 

Read the labels

The biggest sources of added sugars in the typical American diet are soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, snacks, and candy. An example of information about added sugar in packaged foods is now available on the “Nutrition Facts” label (FDA, 2021).

What is added sugar?

Many foods or beverages have extra sugar and syrups added to them when they are processed or prepared. These added sugars have many different names, such as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose (FDA, 2021).

Here are a few ideas for how you can help your family reduce added sugar intake:

  • Read nutrition facts labels carefully (CDC, 2020). Many foods now list whether a food has added sugar and/or the amount of added sugar. You also can find information about added sugar by reading the ingredients. Avoid serving foods and drinks with added sugar to children under 2 years old. Learn more about nutrition facts labels here (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Serve water and milk. Avoid serving soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, sweetened coffee, and fruit drinks. Milk is a good beverage choice, and it contains natural sugar (lactose) and provides calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients children need.
  • Limit fruit juice. Fruit juice has more sugar per serving than whole fruit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day for children ages 1 through 3 years old. It is recommended that you do not give fruit juice to infants under 1 year old (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Go fresh and limit processed, pre-packed food and drinks. Sugar is often added to processed and pre-packaged food items while they are being made or at the table. For example, there are hidden sources of added sugar in processed foods like ketchup, dried cranberries, salad dressings, and baked beans (CDC, 2020).
  • Satisfy your child’s sweet tooth with whole fruit (Healthy Children, 2020). Keep bananas, oranges, or grapes in your young child’s line of sight, and offer these and other fruits regularly.

By limiting sugar and avoiding added sugars in your child’s diet, you are helping to ensure proper nutrition and a healthy beginning for your child. An app is available through the USDA My Plate Campaign to help you follow the new guidelines available on the My Plate website (USDA, 2021).



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 17). Food and drinks for 6 to 24 months old. Nutrition.

Healthy Children. (2019, March 25). How to reduce added sugar in your child’s diet: APA tips. The American Academy of Pediatrics.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021, January 4). Changes to nutrition facts labels.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). What’s on your plate? MyPlate.

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020,

December). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (9th ed.).

Fruits and Vegetables Month

Food can be fun! Colorful fruits and vegetables are a great way to add brightness to your plate and entice your taste buds. You can find a variety of fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. Visiting your local farmers’ markets can be an exciting family outing! You can gather fresh ingredients and colorful fruits and vegetables, and, best of all, it’s something you can do together.

Get your kids involved! Your children may want to help make decisions about what goes on their plates. While in the produce section at the grocery store, help them explore the different fruits and vegetable options. A fun activity could be to pick produce that creates all the colors in the rainbow!

Not only can fruits and vegetables add color and create fun family activities, but they offer many health benefits including lowering cardiovascular disease risk (Bondonno, Bondonno, Ward, Hodgson, & Croft, 2017; Lassale et al., 2016), protecting the body against oxidative stress (Brookie, Best, & Conner, 2018), decreasing mental health disorders (Brookie et al., 2018), promoting nutrient absorption, and acting as anti-obesity agents (Pem & Jeewon, 2015).

As autumn approaches, here are some seasonal favorites you may like to try at home!

Research indicates that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day will provide the greatest health benefits.

Do your part, live a longer life, and establish healthy life-long habits for your kids!



Bondonno, N. P., Bondonno, C. P., Ward, N. C., Hodgson, J. M., & Croft, K. D. (2017). The cardiovascular health benefits of apples: Whole fruit vs. isolated compounds. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 69, 243–256.

Brookie, K. L., Best, G. I., & Conner, T. S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(APR), 1–14.

Lassale, C., Castetbon, K., Laporte, F., Deschamps, V., Vernay, M., Camilleri, G. M., … Kesse-Guyot, E. (2016). Correlations between fruit, vegetables, fish, vitamins, and fatty acids estimated by web-based nonconsecutive dietary records and respective biomarkers of nutritional status. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 427-438.e5.

Pem, D., & Jeewon, R. (2015). Fruit and vegetable intake: Benefits and progress of nutrition education interventions- Narrative review article. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 44(10), 1309–1321.


Are Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks Appropriate for Kids?

Kids soccer team drinking waterWhile sports drinks and energy drinks are two completely different beverages, many parents may not know what the differences are between the two.

Sports drinks are flavored, sweetened beverages designed to restore energy and fluids, and they contain electrolytes, minerals, and carbohydrates. These drinks have extra calories that could contribute to obesity and tooth decay. While there are certain child athletes who may benefit from consuming sports drinks due to participation in regular, vigorous activity (Rodriguez et. al., 2009), on average, children do not participate in the amount of physical activity that would warrant consumption of beverages that contain electrolytes (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011).

Energy drinks contain stimulants, like excess amounts of caffeine and sugar, guarana, and taurine, that are not found in sports drinks. These stimulants can potentially cause  harm in children’s bodies and can affect the development of neurologic and cardiovascular systems, increase anxiety, contribute to sleep disturbances, and increase heart rate and blood pressure (Seifert et. al., 2011). Some energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which equates to the amount of caffeine in 14 cans of soda (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011). Additionally, one energy drink can contain anywhere from 7 tsp to 21 tsp of added sugars. The American Heart Association states that children between the ages of 2 and 18 shouldn’t consume more than 6 tsp of added sugars in 1 day (American Heart Association, 2016).

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:

  • Pediatricians should highlight the differences between sports drinks and energy drinks with patients and their parents and talk about the potential health risks.
  • Energy drinks pose potential health risks because of the stimulants they contain and should never be consumed by children or adolescents.
  • Routine ingestion of carbohydrate-containing sports drinks by children and adolescents should be avoided or restricted because they can increase the risk of overweight and obesity and can cause dental erosion.
  • Sports drinks have a limited function for pediatric athletes; they should be ingested when there is a need for rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes in combination with water during prolonged, vigorous physical activity.
  • Water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration for children and adolescents.


American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. (2011). Clinical report-sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: Are they appropriate? Pediatrics, 127, 1182. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0965

American Heart Association. (13 September, 2016). Sugar and our children. [Blog]. Retrieved March 2019 from

Rodriguez, N. R., DiMarco, N. M., Langley, S., American Dietic Association, Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine, & Nutrition and Athletic Performance. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(3), 509-527.

Seifert, S.M., Schaechter, J.L., Hershorin, E.R., & Litshultz, S.E. (2011). Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Pediatrics, 127(3), 511. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3592

What to Drink: Aim for 0 Sweetened Beverages

What you drink is as important as what you eat. The 0 in 5210 Healthy Military Children stands for 0 Sweetened Beverages. Many drinks have added sugar and do not contain vitamins or minerals. Here are 7 tips for choosing better beverages.

  • Be a role model for your family by choosing water! 

    Drink water when you are thirsty, and offer water to thirsty children. Carry a water bottle with you, so you always have something to drink.

  • Add flavor to water.

    Try adding slices of cucumber, lemon, or other fruits. Add crushed ice and a fun straw!

  • Instead of soda or soft drinks, try sparkling water.

    Sparkling water comes in many different flavors. You can also buy plain sparkling water and add a splash of 100% juice or a squeeze of lemon or lime.

  • Keep a pitcher of water in the front of the refrigerator.

    Keeping water in the front of the refrigerator makes it easy for your family to see.

  • Choose a juice that says 100% juice on the label.

    Watch out for labels on juices that say juice drink, juice beverage, or fruit-flavored drink. These are not 100% juice. Juice beverages and juice drinks have added sugar and very small amounts of juice.

  • Avoid added sweeteners by reading the ingredient list on the food label.

    If any of the following ingredients are listed on the food label, the drink has added sugars: sugar, honey, corn syrup, and brown rice syrup. Also look for ingredients that end with “-ose,” such as fructose.

  • Watch the serving size!

    Many bottled drinks and juices contain 2 or more servings.

Remember to aim for 0 sweetened beverages every day!

Additional Resources:

May I Have Some Juice Please?

Smart Snack Tips for Healthy Children

The keys to smart snacking for healthy children include storing snacks where your family can see them; making snacks easy to grab and go; and great taste!

Follow these tips for healthy snacks:

  • Offer a variety of healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, at planned times throughout the day. Let children choose whether and how much they eat.
  • Wash and cut up fruits and veggies so they are ready to eat. Have your child help you place fruits and veggies into containers or bags, so they are easy to see!
  • Buy food in single-serve containers for grab-and-go eating, such as juice boxes, raisins, fruit cups, and baby carrots.
  • Walk your children through the kitchen and show them where you keep healthy snack foods. Put healthy snack foods where children can reach them, such as the lower shelves in your refrigerator, pantry, or cabinets. Keep fresh fruit, such as bananas and apples, on the counter where children can see them.
  • Ask your child what snack foods from each food group he or she would like to eat, and purchase those foods so they are available. Children are more likely to eat foods that they are able to choose.
  • Use clear containers and plastic bags or containers covered with plastic wrap, so your family can see what snack foods are inside.

For a list of healthy snack ideas for kids, visit:

May I have some more juice, please?

New recommendations for fruit juice.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new recommendations  on fruit juice intake in late May of 2017.  One of the most significant changes from the previous recommendations is to limit intake to less than 4 oz of juice per day for toddlers under 4 years of age. Previous recommendations still stand. These include limiting intake to 4 to 6 oz of juice per day for children ages 1 to 6 years old.  You can learn more by exploring our 5210 Families Toolkit found at, where you will find some fun alternatives to juice for your family!  You may also visit the AAP website for the full report.