When you have a child, it is normal to feel some anxiety around their nutrition, ultra focused on feeding them healthy and balanced meals. However, when it comes to drinks many new parents ignore this aspect altogether. But, a healthy diet is as much what you eat as it is what you drink. So, In this article we take a look at the most nutritious drinks for toddlers, and the drinks you should stay away from regardless of if they are targeted for toddler consumption.

What are the Most Nutritional Drinks for Toddlers?

Toddlers are between the ages of 12 and 36 months old. During this period of a toddler’s life, a huge amount of cognitive, emotional, and social development occurs. In order to help your child grow and learn, it’s important to support them with a healthful diet including the appropriate types of drinks.

While many commercial drinks are marketed to children, sometimes the most simple products are best. Here is some information about the drinks that every toddler should be drinking for growth and development.



Once your toddler hits 1 year old, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that they begin drinking whole cow’s milk and then transition to 1% or skim milk after turning 3 years of age. This simple beverage is one of the most nutritional drinks for toddlers. It is incredibly helpful as a vitamin D and calcium source and will help to build and strengthen your toddler’s bones and teeth. Opt  for regular cow’s milk and avoid sweetened, flavored milk that you may spot on the supermarket shelves.

How much milk each day? A good goal is to limit your toddler to around 16 ounces, or two glasses, of milk each day. This will stop your toddler from becoming overfull to ensure they get other nutrients from their meals and other drinks.

Milk Alternatives


If your toddler isn’t a fan of cow milk, or they have a milk intolerance or allergy, there are a variety of milk alternatives that can give your toddler the nutrients they need. Be sure to check the label on the milk alternative you purchase and avoid milk variants that are overly sweetened. One glass of regular milk contains around 300 mg of calcium, so aim to find an alternative with a similar value.

How much each day? As with regular milk, try to limit your toddler to just 16 ounces a day.



Once your toddler celebrates their first birthday, they should be drinking water each day. Water is free of calories and helps to hydrate the body. Ensure your child gets water each day to prevent dehydration and maintain a healthy digestive system. Water is also essential for ensuring your toddler’s blood flow is healthy and regulated.

How much each day? It is recommended that your toddler consume one 8 ounce glass at 1 year of age, 2 glasses at 2 years of age, and 3 glasses a 3 years of age. When your child is thirsty, or the weather is hot, they may need a little more water and will likely be able to ask you for this if they become thirsty.



Yes we know, kids love juice but this drink should be enjoyed by toddlers in moderation. Because juices are packed full of added sugars and preservatives, too much of this drink can lead to childhood obesity and serious health complications. Aim to purchase 100% juice so that your kids also receive some of the nutrition benefits, such as iron, folate, potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium. These vitamins and minerals will help your child to develop a healthy immune system and a healthy, energetic body. If you’re looking for nutritional drinks for toddlers, juice is good, but should be limited.

How much each day? 4 ounces a day is thought to be the ideal amount for toddlers. At 4 ounces a day, your toddler will get the nutrients from juice without risking unhealthy weight gain. Try to avoid filling up a sippy cup on an endless cycle. Instead, switch to water after 4 ounces of juice or try a combination of 2 ounces juice to 2 ounces water. 

What are the Least Nutritional Drinks for Toddlers?

Milk, water, and juice are widely thought to be healthy drinks for toddlers. Some beverages, however, should be avoided.

  • Caffeinated Drinks: Avoid giving toddlers any drinks with caffeine. Drinks like iced tea, black tea, and some sodas contain this stimulant. Unlike adults, toddlers react very strongly to even a small amount of caffeine. This may disrupt naps, cause shakiness, and stomach pains for your toddler. Remember, caffeine is a drug that raises blood pressure, and it may even hinder brain development.
  • Energy Drinks: While you may see the colorful, inviting bottles on the shelves as a sign that energy drinks are safe for toddlers, you should not give your toddler this beverage. Energy drinks have a surprisingly high caffeine content and a high sugar content. For your little toddler, these ingredients can be over stimulating and may result in jitters, anxiety, and sleeplessness.
  • Less than 100% Fruit Juice: Some fruit juices are just about as unhealthy as soda thanks to their high added sugar content. If you do decide to give your toddler juice, always make sure it has 100% on the label.

Are These Popular Toddler Drinks Really Good For My Toddler?

Go & Grow

Go & Grow is a milk-based drink made for toddlers. It’s a popular formula that packs in some extra nutrients that aren’t found in regular cow’s milk. This drink is made from nonfat milk that provides protein and carbohydrates. It also contains vegetable oils. Compared to regular milk, this beverage is more concentrated and has more nutrition.


Enfragrow is another formula option. With Enfragrow, you can give your toddler a smaller serving that has a higher nutrient concentration than whole milk. It also has fewer calories, at 160 vs milk’s 215. The company also claims that the drink has 22-24 nutrients, contains DHA, and probiotics. This beverage does contain slightly less calcium than milk, although it boasts more iron, vitamin D, and vitamin C.


Fortini is a milk formula designed for children of up to 6 years old who are underweight or suffering from malnutrition. It comes in a variety of flavors. This drink obviously won’t be for every toddler and should only be purchased after a doctor’s recommendation.


PediaSure is another drink designed for children aged 3-4 who are diagnosed as being underweight or at-risk weight. It contains 27 minerals and vitamins, protein, DHA, antioxidants, and other nutritional values. If you think your toddler needs to gain weight, you may wish to speak to your doctor about switching from whole milk to PediaSure. This drink is best for children over 3 years old. If your doctor decides it’s the right beverage for your toddler, they’ll let you know exactly how much your child should be drinking a day to return to a healthy weight.

Final Thoughts

While it may be tempting to stock up on commercially marketed toddler drinks, as long as your toddler has a healthy, varied diet, they should be safe drinking water, milk, and a bit of juice.

When in doubt about your toddler’s diet, speak to your doctor about your diet plan. Every toddler’s needs will be different, so it’s important that you cater the plan to your toddler’s unique needs. If your toddler is underweight or can’t maintain a steady weight, speak to your doctor about a milk-based formula like PediaSure or Fortini which can help your toddler get the nutrients, protein, and fat they need to reach a healthy weight.

What is your toddler’s favorite thing to drink? We hope this guide to nutritional drinks for toddlers has given you some inspiration.

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Peer Review

This article has been peer reviewed by Abigail, a clinical dietitian based in Chicago, Illinois.


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