In light of rising rates in obesity and concerns about dental health, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released new guidelines on fruit juice consumption for babies, toddlers and older children.
The new recommendations advise parents to limit consumption and actually avoid it altogether for babies under 1 year of age.
The AAP and pediatricians alike agree eating the whole fruit is preferable because it provides dietary fiber and less sugar than juice. The high sugar content in juices can contribute to increased calorie consumption and the risk of cavities. In addition, the lack of protein and fiber, which helps keeps kids fuller longer, can contribute to excessive weight gain.
“Juice is an empty source of calories, and it’s easier to drink 8 ounces of juice than to eat 8 ounces of the whole fruit,” said Dr. Mark Evans, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics in Brecksville. “Yes, fruit is more calorie-dense, but it fills kids up so they tend to eat less of it. Also, the fiber from fruit helps kids poop – and it’s good for long-term colon health.”
The AAP’s new guidelines, the first updates since 2001, are broken down by age group.
Babies 1 year and under
Previously, the AAP advised against offering fruit juice to babies under 6 months of age, but expanded that time frame to 1 year with its latest guidelines. The policy statement read, “Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit to children under the age of 1 and should not be included in their diets.”
Instead, babies should be fed breast milk or infant formula exclusively until 6 months of age. After that, parents should offer the whole fruit in pureed form.
The AAP warns drinking too much juice could actually stunt a baby’s growth. “If a baby fills up on fruit juice, she may not get enough of the other important nutrients in breast milk or formula, including protein, fat, calcium and iron,” said Dr. Evans.
Toddlers aged 1 to 3
The AAP recommends intake of juice should be limited to 4 ounces daily for kids aged 1 to 3. Parents should look for 100 percent fruit juice that is pasteurized to reduce the risk of contaminants, such as E. coli or salmonella.
Also, toddlers should not be given juice from bottles or sippy cups that allow them to consume juice easily throughout the day. “When kids drink juice from a bottle or sippy cup, they suck on it for prolonged periods of time,” Dr. Evans explained. “The excessive exposure to the teeth can cause cavities. It’s the same reason why kids shouldn’t be given juice at bedtime.”
Children aged 4 to 6
The AAP recommends fruit juice should be restricted to 4 to 6 ounces daily for kids aged 4 to 6. Low-fat or nonfat milk and water are healthier options and more adequate in meeting your child’s daily fluid requirements.
In addition, fruit juice is not appropriate in the treatment of dehydration or diarrhea. “Juice isn’t a good way to rehydrate children because the added sugar can cause kids to poop more,” Dr. Evans shared. “Instead, you need sodium and fluid to rehydrate. Juice doesn’t have any salt and can actually dilute it in the body.”
Children aged 7 to 18
The AAP now says juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces, instead of the 12 ounces it previously recommended for kids aged 7 and older. The guidelines state 100 percent fruit juice can replace 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit servings per day.
“There’s no real nutritional advantage to drinking juice,” said Dr. Evans. “Kids don’t need it in their diets.”