The label on the bottle promises five servings of fruit in just one glass, but offering your child juice might not be the sweetest idea. Trisha Korioth reports that kids should eat their fruit, not drink it, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Fruit juice is popular among children of all ages. Packaged in single-serve boxes and pouches, it is a convenient drink to serve thirsty children. But parents should consider skipping it and look at the benefits of whole fruit instead.
“Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories,” said pediatrician Dr. Melvin B. Heyman, who co-authored updated recommendations from the AAP on fruit juice for children that were published in May.
“Small amounts of juice in moderation is fine for older kids, but it’s absolutely unnecessary for children under 1,” Heyman said.
Whole fruit offers fiber and other nutrients. Fruit juice, however, can lead to cavities and weight gain or loss, the AAP says. Juice also can cause diarrhea when toddlers drink too much of it.
The AAP advises parents not to give babies under age 1 any juice unless their doctor recommends it. Juice should be limited for older children, too. The AAP recommends toddlers ages 1 to 3 should have no more than 4 ounces of juice a day — that’s just half a cup.
Children ages 4-6 can have up to 6 ounces of juice a day. For children ages 7 to 18, the AAP recommends no more than 8 ounces of juice a day, or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2½ cups of fruit servings per day.
The AAP also recommends:
Mothers should breast-feed babies exclusively until 6 months of age and continue for a year or longer.
• Do not offer juice in a bottle or sippy cup. Toddlers and children should not carry cups or boxes of juice throughout the day.
• Buy products labeled as containing “100% juice.” Drinks that are not 100% juice often include “drink,” “beverage” or “cocktail” on the label. They often have added sugar and other ingredients.
• Serve juice that has been pasteurized. Unpasteurized juice can contain germs that put infants and children at risk of getting sick.
“The most important thing to remember, is that it’s much better for your children to eat whole fruit — and vegetables — rather than juice.
Serve them melon, cut-up grapes or apples, orange slices — whatever they like — and they will get both the vitamins as well as the fiber that whole fruit offers, said pediatrician Dr. Patty Braun, MD, spokesperson for the AAP.
“This will help them establish healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime,” Braun said.
• Children’s health is a continuing series. This week’s article is courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Elk Grove Village. For more information, visit healthychildren.org.