Sugary fruit drinks may be presented as healthy for kids in advertising campaigns, but, according to the spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), parents should instead turn to milk.

In a recent U.S. News & World Report article, sugary drinks are beginning to emerge as a culprit in the fight against childhood obesity. The American Heart Associate advises parents to limit their child’s sugar intake to 12 grams -- or 3 teaspoons -- a day. However, between 2001 and 2004, children aged 4 to 8 consumed an average of 21 teaspoons of sugar daily.

Adding to this sugar overload are fruit juice drinks promoted as healthy alternatives. Some contain only 10 percent juice.  

Debbie Beauvais, AND spokesman and a registered dietitian, points that while these sugary beverages can’t be singled out as the only cause for childhood obesity, kids and adults should instead select other options, such as dairy.

Beauvais urged parents to make sure children consume 2 to 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk each day.  The USDA reports that milk is rich in nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Adequate amounts of these nutrients are tied to healthy bones and lower rates of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

For children who turn up their noses at white milk, Beauvais suggests trying flavored milk.

"Flavored milk is a trade-off to no milk at all," Beauvais told U.S. News & World Report. "The nutrition that milk provides is more important than those few extra calories and sugar that add flavor."

Beauvais also suggested that parents pure fruit juice instead of juice drinks.