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Snacks and sweetened drinks - children


Choosing healthy snacks and drinks for your children can be hard. There are many options. What is healthy for your child may depend on any specific health conditions they have.


Fruits and vegetables are good choices for healthy snacks. They are full of vitamins, do not have added sugar or sodium. Some types of crackers and cheeses also make good snacks. Other healthy snack choices include:

Put snacks in small containers so they are easy to carry in a pocket or backpack. Use small containers to help avoid overly large portions.

Avoid having "junk food" snacks like chips, candy, cake, cookies, and ice cream every day. It is easier to keep kids away from these foods if you do not have them in your house and they are a special treat instead of an everyday item.

It is OK to let your child have an unhealthy snack once in a while. Children may try to sneak unhealthy food if they are never allowed to have these foods. The key is balance.

Other things you can do include:

If you are not sure if a snack is healthy, read the Nutrition Facts label.


Encourage children to drink a lot of water.

Avoid sodas, sport drinks, and flavored waters.

Even 100% juices can lead to undesired weight gain. A child drinking a 12-ounce (360 milliliters) orange juice every day, in addition to other foods, can gain up to 15 excess pounds (7 kilograms) per year in addition to weight gain from normal growth patterns. Try diluting juices and flavored drinks with water. Start by adding only a little water. Then slowly increase the amount.

Children, ages 2 to 8, should drink about 2 cups (480 milliliters) of milk a day. Children older than 8 should have about 3 cups (720 milliliters) a day. It may be helpful to serve milk with meals and water between meals and with snacks.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind


Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM. Obesity. In: Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM, eds. Nelson Essentials of Pediatrics. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 29.

Parks EP, Shaikhkhalil A, Sainath NA, Mitchell JA, Brownell JN, Stallings VA. Feeding healthy infants, children, and adolescents. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 56.

Thompson M, Noel MB. Nutrition and family medicine. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 37.


Review Date: 4/30/2019  

Reviewed By: Emily Wax, RD, CDN, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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