Your Guide to Summer Drinks for Toddlers

Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist


With the summer holidays approaching, you may find yourself eating out with your toddler more than usual, where they may be tempted by a variety of drinks they may not have seen before. But what’s suitable and what should be avoided? Keep on reading for our guide to sweet drinks for toddlers, so you can plan appropriate drink options for warm sunny days!

Should toddlers drink sweet drinks?

All sweet drinks can cause tooth decay – even those which are made of fruit! All of them can damage teeth because of the sugar and how acidic they are, which breaks down your child’s the tooth enamel. So, it’s best to avoid giving your toddler any sweet drinks, but if they are given occasionally, make sure that they are very diluted and served in a cup, not a bottle, and kept to meal times – stick just to milk and water in between! Read more in our guide to sweet drinks for toddlers below, for everything explained!

What’s the difference between different sweet drinks?

  • Fruit juices are high in sugar and are acidic, both of which can damage teeth. They aren’t an essential part of a toddler’s diet – a toddler can consume enough vitamin C by eating fruit, vegetables or potatoes. Any fruit juice given to toddlers needs to be well diluted– try one-part juice to about six to ten parts water
  • Fruit smoothies are also very high in sugar and calories and are acidic. They can be an alternative to a sugar-containing pudding but it is better to have your toddler eating fresh fruit rather than drinking smoothies About 100-120ml or 3-4oz would be a good serving
  • Squashes are usually artificially flavoured and sweetened with sugar and/or sweeteners. Although you may not suspect, like fruit juices, they are also acidic and can damage the teeth
  • Flavoured milks and yogurt drinks do have added sugar but are slightly less damaging to teeth than other sweet drinks, because they contain calcium in the milk, which helps protect teeth against decay!
  • Fizzy sweet drinks are sweetened with either sugar and/or sweeteners. These can be very acidic, causing damage to teeth
  • Diet drinks, zero calorie drinks and no added sugar drinks – while these don’t contain sugar, (instead sweeteners are usually used), they are still acidic, which can be just as bad for teeth as other sweet drinks!
  • Tea and coffee – both contain caffeine and neither should be given to young children! Although tea may seem harmless, it actually contains tannins which then reduces your toddler’s crucial absorption of iron. So be sure to avoid tea at mealtimes
  • Herbal teas can be given to toddlers but be sure to limit them like other sweet drinks if they’ve been sweetened with sugar or honey!

Found our guide to sweet drinks for toddlers useful? Find out more here, and be sure to share with your friends and family!

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Further Reading

  • By Melanie Pilcher and Dr. Gillian Harris Establishing bedtime routines for toddlers and young children
  • By Dr. Gillian Harris, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Birmingham and ITF member Most parents will struggle at some point to get their toddlers to eat certain foods. Is toddler food refusal a sign of an eating disorder. or is it merely a phase? In the run up to Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Gill Harris provides practical advice to help parents tackle fussy eating in toddlers.  
  • By Lucy Upton, on behalf of the Infant and Toddler Forum On behalf of the members of the Infant and Toddler Forum, I am proud to announce the launch of a new infant feeding educational programme, which includes practical resources for frontline healthcare professionals (HCPs) working with parents and infants.