Oat, coconut, almond, rice, and other plant-based milk should not be consumed by children under the age of 5, according to a new set of health guidelines released on Sept. 18.
Researchers at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association produced the guidelines.
They said that plant-based milk might not have the key nutrients that children need in their early development.
According to the report (pdf), “Plant-based milks are growing in popularity, but it is important to note that they are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk. They have varying nutritional profiles based on their plant source and many often contain added sugars.”
It noted, however, that “for children 1 to 5 years of age, plant milks may be useful for those with allergies or intolerances to cow’s milk. For those children, the choice to consume plant milk should be undertaken in consultation with a health care provider, such as a pediatrician and/or registered dietitian nutritionist, so that intake of nutrients commonly obtained from dairy milk can be considered in dietary planning.”
However, for children between the ages of 1 and 5 with allergies to cow’s milk, “plant milks may be useful.”
“For those children, the choice to consume plant milk should be undertaken in consultation with a health care provider, such as a pediatrician and/or registered dietitian nutritionist, so that intake of nutrients commonly obtained from dairy milk can be considered in dietary planning,” the researchers added.
Drinks with caffeine such as soda, coffee, and green or black tea should also be avoided, according to the website.
What’s more, low-calorie sweetened drinks should be avoided, it said. Those include drinks “sweetened with stevia, sucralose, or other low-calorie sweeteners”
Sugar-sweetened drinks should also be avoided. They include “soda, fruit drinks and fruit-flavored drinks, fruit-ades, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and sweetened coffee and tea drinks,” the organizations said.
The guidelines state that babies need only breast milk or infant formula. Once they hit 6 months of age, they can drink small amounts of water. Children should stick to drinking milk, water, and sometimes juice.
They also noted that 100 percent fruit juice should not be given to children up to 12 months of age.
For 1- to 3-year-old children, no more than 4 ounces of juice should be consumed per day, the researchers said. And for 5- to 7-year-olds, no more than 4 to 6 ounces should be given.
They noted that 100 percent fruit juice might “be an important contributor to achieving adequate fruit intake in young children, particularly in certain populations for whom access to and affordability of fruit is limited.”