Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.
A substantial proportion of Canadians' daily calories come not from what they eat, but from what they drink. This is particularly true for children. According to results from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) – Nutrition (see The data), beverages make up almost 20% of the calories consumed by children and teens aged 4 to 18 (Table 1). At ages 1 to 3, beverages account for an even higher 30%.
Percentage of daily calories derived from beverages, by gender and age group, household population aged 1 to 18, Canada excluding territories, 2004
Liquids, notably water, are essential to good nutrition. While some water comes from foods, most is derived from beverages. As well, beverages provide vitamins and minerals. However, beverages can also be a major source of sugar, and may contribute to excess calories. Sugar-sweetened drinks have been linked to weight gain and higher body mass index in children and teenagers.1 Sweetened drinks, and even fruit juice, have been associated with an increased risk of tooth decay.2
This article is an overview of beverage consumption by Canadian children and teens aged 1 to 18. It examines the quantity and type of beverages consumed, differences by age and gender, and beverages' contribution to calorie and nutrient intake.
More than 85% of all the beverages consumed by children and teens fall into five categories: water, milk, fruit juice, fruit drinks, and regular soft drinks.
On a typical day, at least 70% of children and teens drink water (Table 2). The amount consumed rises steadily with age (Table 3). At ages, 1 to 3, children drink less water than milk, but by ages 4 to 8, the amounts are equal, and at ages 14 to 18, teens drink more water than any other beverage: an average of 780 grams a day for boys and 694 grams for girls. (In the CCHS, all beverages are reported in grams. Compared with volume, one gram of water is equal to one millilitre of water. Most beverages are slightly heavier than water, in the order of 1% or 2%.)
Percentage who consumed selected beverages the previous day, by gender and age group, household population aged 1 to 18, Canada excluding territories, 2004
Average daily consumption (in grams) of selected beverages, by gender and age group, household population aged 1 to 18, Canada excluding territories, 2004
Drinking milk is generally associated with childhood. Indeed, milk makes up almost half of the beverages consumed by children aged 1 to 3, who average more than 450 grams a day (Table 3), or about one and three-quarters servings from the "Milk Products" group of Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating.3 Consumption drops at older ages, and starting at age 4, boys drink more milk than girls do. Boys' daily consumption stabilizes at about one and a third servings of milk a day, but for girls, a second drop occurs in adolescence, with average daily consumption falling to less than one serving at ages 14 to 18.
The decline in milk consumption at older ages is attributable to fewer consumers rather than to less milk consumed by those who drink it (Table 2). While 87% of boys and 88% of girls aged 1 to 3 drank milk the day before the CCHS interview, at ages 14 to 18, the figures were 60% for boys and 53% for girls.
Average daily fruit juice consumption is relatively stable among children and teens, varying between 171 and 200 grams for boys, and between 147 and 168 grams for girls (Table 3). At ages 1 to 8, boys drink more fruit juice than do girls. These amounts are equivalent to one and a half servings from the "Vegetables and Fruit" group of the Food Guide for boys, and one and a quarter servings for girls.
The overall stability in average daily intake hides the fact that at older ages, smaller proportions of children and teens drink fruit juice (Table 2). Around 60% of 1- to 3-year-olds had fruit juice the day before the CCHS interview; at ages 14 to 18, the figure was about 40%. The stability in average consumption for children and teens is due to greater consumption by those who continued to drink fruit juice at older ages, particularly 14- to 18-year-olds (Table 4).
Average daily consumption (in grams) by those who consumed selected beverages the previous day, by gender and age group, household population aged 1 to 18, Canada excluding territories, 2004
At older ages, children's beverage consumption increases and becomes more varied. Water, milk and fruit juice account for about 85% of the beverages consumed by children aged 1 to 3, but at ages 14 to 18, the figure is just over 60%. Sweetened beverages—soft drinks and fruit drinks with less than 100% juice—make up most of the difference.
Consumption of sweetened beverages increases with age: more children choose these beverages, and those who drink them drink more. This is particularly true for regular soft drinks. Fewer than 10% of children aged 1 to 3 had a regular soft drink the day before the CCHS interview, but at ages 14 to 18, the percentages were 53% for boys and 35% for girls (Table 2). Boys' average daily consumption of regular soft drinks climbs from 68 grams at ages 4 to 8 to 376 grams at ages 14 to 18; among girls, the rise is from 47 to 179 grams (Table 3). Moreover, among soft drink consumers, average daily intake is slightly more than 200 grams at ages 1 to 3, but at ages 14 to 18, 715 grams for boys and 514 grams for girls (Table 4).
Consumption of fruit drinks peaks at ages 9 to 13, with boys averaging 211 grams a day, and girls, 192 grams (Table 3). However, among those who consume fruit drinks, daily intake is highest at ages 14 to 18, averaging more than 500 grams (Table 4).
In addition to water, milk, fruit juice and sweetened drinks, Canadian children and teens drink other beverages such as vegetable juice, tea and coffee. However, the amounts consumed tend to be relatively small (Appendix Table A).
Calories, sugar and nutrients
Beverages are an important source of energy for children and teens, supplying up to 30% of daily calories. Sugar in fruit juice (fructose) and milk (lactose) provide calories. As well, milk contains lipids in the form of saturated fats. Calories from fruit drinks and soft drinks come mostly from added sugars.
During early childhood, milk and fruit juice contribute far more daily calories than do sweetened drinks. The gap narrows as children get older, and almost evens out at ages 14 to 18 (Figure 1). Although this shift is not reflected in total calories derived from beverages, it affects the contribution of beverages to vitamin and mineral intake.
Percentage of daily calories derived from sweetened drinks and from milk and fruit juice, by gender and age group, household population aged 1 to 18, Canada excluding territories, 2004
Fruit juice alone contributes substantially to children's requirements for vitamin C. Depending on their age, children obtain 50 mg to 72 mg of vitamin C a day from fruit juice, well above the estimated requirement of 13 mg to 63 mg.11 However, an estimated 7% of Canadian adolescents are deficient in vitamin C.12
Milk accounts for a considerable share of children's and teens' daily intake of vitamins and minerals: vitamin D (45% to 69 %), calcium (29% to 51%), vitamin B12 (21% to 48%), vitamin A (21% to 35%), riboflavin (19% to 40%), phosphorus (17% to 37%), potassium (13% to 30%) magnesium (11% to 27%), and zinc (9% to 25%) (data not shown). The steady drop in girls' milk consumption in older age groups is of concern, as a significant proportion of adolescent girls have inadequate intake of vitamin A, magnesium and zinc, and low intakes of potassium and calcium.3, 13
Children's and teens' beverage consumption varies little from one province to another. However, compared with the Canadian average, beverage consumption is significantly high in Newfoundland and Labrador (Figure 2), particularly of fruit juice by children younger than 9 and of regular soft drinks by 9- to 18-year-olds (data not shown). On the other hand, beverage consumption in British Columbia is significantly below the Canadian average.
Average daily consumption (in grams), by type of beverage and province, household population aged 1 to 18, Canada excluding territories, 2004
- Date modified: