You’ve probably heard that toddlers and children shouldn’t drink soda, but what about fruit juice? It sounds like a healthy and natural alternative, but despite the pictures of fruits and vegetables on the label, fruit juice is not necessarily a good choice for children. When buying fruit juice, you should get in the habit of reading labels, and even then, it’s a good idea to limit your child’s access to fruit juice.
Many of the products that market themselves as “fruit juice,” or “fruit drink,” a blended fruit juice, actually contain less than 1 percent of actual juice. Under federal law, fruit and vegetable juice manufacturers have to disclose the contents of their products, including the percentage of ingredients such as fruit juice, high fructose corn syrup, water, fructose, and other flavoring and sweetening agents. Even products labeled “100 percent juice” can legally contain added sweeteners or preservatives, but it must be clearly labeled.
The concerns surrounding fruit juice are multiple. First, young children may be drinking too much of it, especially if it is provided in a sippy cup. With recommendations topping out at 4-6 ounces a day for a toddler and preschoolers, excess consumption is a real concern, particularly in the realm of excess weight gain. The consumption of juice can also fill up tiny tummies, which can result in low appetite and crowding out important nutrients needed for growth.
In the process of juicing, fiber is removed. Fiber is important for children for many reasons, including regulating bowel movements, improving satisfaction after eating, and warding off many long-term health problems. The best way to get the fiber from fruit into your children’s diet is to serve whole fruit.
One hundred percent fruit juice is a better option than sodas, flavored water, or sports drinks. If you do give your kids fruit juice, be sure to select products labeled “100 percent juice.” Research shows that moderate consumption of such drinks does not contribute to weight gain in children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association recommend:
- Ages 6 months to 6 years: 4 to 6 ounces (118 to 177 ml) a day
- Fruit juice is not recommended for children under the age of six months unless it’s being used to reduce constipation. Consult your pediatrician before using this method.
For toddlers, be sure to serve juice in an open-top cup, rather than a sippy cup, and only serve juice at mealtimes. If your child is thirsty at other times of day, water is the best option.
- Read juice labels carefully to ensure you’re buying 100 percent juice.
- Fruit juice is better than soda, flavored water and sports drinks, but water is still the best and healthiest option.
- Limit the amount of juice your kids drink daily to 4-6 ounces.