Just about anywhere you see young children, chances are you’ll see boxes, bottles and sippy cups full of juice. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published in a 2015 study in the journal Pediatrics showed that about one-third of fruit consumption in children ages 2 to 19 was in the form of fruit juice, and children under age 5 actually consumed more fruit juice than whole fruits.
That’s too much, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy has updated its official guidelines for fruit juice consumption, and is encouraging pediatricians to advise parents to cut down on the amount of juice served to children and replace it with whole fruits instead.
While 100 percent juice is certainly healthier than sodas or other sugar-added beverages, a glass of juice is not the nutritional equivalent of a piece of fruit. Juice is missing the fiber and other nutrients found in whole fruits and is also not as filling, which can lead to overconsumption and excessive calorie intake. In addition, heavy juice consumption increases the risk of tooth decay.
While the academy previously advised no fruit juice for children younger than 6 months, they now advise parents to avoid giving juice at all during the first year of life, unless recommended by a doctor for treatment of constipation.
For 1- to 3-year-olds, the suggested amount is no more than four ounces daily; for 4- to 6-year-olds it’s six ounces. Older children, ages 7 to 18, are advised to max out at eight ounces. For all children, water and cow’s milk should be the primary sources of fluid intake after weaning from breast milk or formula.
Along with the revised juice recommendations, the academy also suggests that no water be given to children under the age of one. Breast milk or formula should be the only beverages provided to babies of that age.
American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations:
+ Juice should not be introduced to infants before 1 year unless clinically indicated. Daily intake should be limited to 4 ounces in toddlers ages 1-3 years and 4-6 ounces for ages 4-6. For children 7- 18 years, limit juice intake to 8 ounces or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2½ cups of fruit servings per day.
+ Toddlers should not be given juice from bottles or easily transportable covered cups that make it easy to consume throughout the day, nor should they be given juice at bedtime.
+ Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits and educated on the benefit of fiber intake.
+ Families should be educated that human milk and/or infant formula is sufficient to satisfy fluid requirements for infants, and low-fat/nonfat milk and water are sufficient for older children.
+ Consumption of unpasteurized juice products should be strongly discouraged.
+ Grapefruit juice should be avoided for those taking certain medications.
+ When evaluating children with malnutrition — as well as chronic diarrhea, excessive flatulence, abdominal pain and bloating — pediatricians should determine the amount of juice being consumed.
+ In evaluating risk for dental caries, discuss the relationship between fruit juice and dental decay, and inquire about the amount and means of juice consumption.
+ Routinely discuss the use of fruit juice vs. fruit drinks, and educate older children and parents about the differences.