We need to eat our fruit, not drink it. This is especially important for our children. While we like to think that fruit juice is a convenient way to get all the health benefits that fresh whole fruit provides, fruit juice delivers high levels of sugar and high levels of enamel-damaging acid. Whole fruit offers fiber and other nutrients that juice does not. Fruit juice can lead to cavities, weight gain, as well as unhealthy weight loss. Juice also can cause diarrhea when toddlers drink too much of it.
Fruit juice is popular among children of all ages. The convenience factor of single-serve juice boxes and small bottles combined with children’s eagerness to drink juice make it a popular choice for parents on the go. However, parents should consider skipping it and look at the benefits of whole fruit instead. Water is your best option to rehydrate active children. Children should avoid sports drinks as these usually contain high acid levels and are unnecessary for children in most cases.
We recommend the following:
- When possible, mothers should breastfeed babies exclusively until six 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. Never allow children to sleep with a bottle or sippy cup unless it contains only water. Allowing children to have unrestricted access to juice through sippy cups and bottles creates a continuous supply of sugar and creates high acid levels in the mouth, which will lead to a much greater risk of decay. This risk increases in terms of both higher amounts of decay and the speed at which the decay spreads.
- If you decide to include juice in your family’s diet, buy products labeled as containing “100% juice.” Drinks that are not 100% juice often include “drink,” “beverage,” or “cocktail” on the label. These drinks usually 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.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Younger than 12 months: Do not routinely give fruit juice since it offers no nutritional benefit at this age
1-3 years: Limit fruit juice to a maximum of 4 oz/day (1/2 cup)
4-6 years: Limit fruit juice to a maximum of 4-6 oz/day (1/2 cup to 3/4 cup)
7-18 years: Limit juice to 8oz/day (1 cup)