For a long time we’ve been convinced that fruit juice is a necessary part of our diets and that’s definitely not true.
As a result, it may have come as a surprise to parents that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that no fruit juice be given to children under one year of age and limiting juice for any child up to the age of 18.
There are a lot of good reasons for the new recommendations.
One of the most important reasons is dental health. There is a lot of sugar in these drinks that if toddlers and children are sipping these drinks throughout the day, they are constantly washing a sugar coating over their teeth which makes it hard for our natural defenses to fight off the bacteria that can cause cavities. Juice, unfortunately, can be a common cause of tooth decay known as “bottle rot” in toddlers.
Another concern about fruit juice is that a heavy load of sugar is being ingested and that sugar can cause problems such as putting on extra weight because it’s calories that a child doesn’t need and doesn’t grow well from. Additionally it can make some kids feel full and then not want to eat healthy foods which provide good calories. I have seen juice consumption lead to both overweight kids and children who have failure to thrive.
If families do want to introduce juice to their child, there are a couple of things they can do to maximize any small benefit of juice.
- Remember that a serving of juice will never be as good eating the actual whole fruit. For example eating a cluster of grapes is always better than drinking grape juice.
- If you want to introduce juice to a child between one and six years of age, four ounces of juice per day is the recommended amount.
- Make sure the product is 100 percent juice. Anything less than 100 percent juice will have lots of added sugars, additives and other substances. And don’t be fooled by products that say made from 100 percent concentrated juice. They are not a good quality choice.
- It can be helpful to water down fruit juice in order to reduce the number of calories your child is getting but make sure not to buy pre-diluted fruit juice.
- Juice should always be given at a sit-down meal setting to prevent a child from sipping it throughout the day which can promote tooth decay.
It’s also important to remember that we don’t want juice to replace milk and water consumption throughout the day. Compared to juice, milk is a much better source of nutrition and hydration.
At the end of the day, water is always going to be the best beverage for us to drink.