Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether or not children should drink juice. Some parents wouldn’t dream of bringing it in to their home while others couldn’t last a day without giving it to their kids. But what’s the real scoop behind juice and its role in a child’s diet?
Research and new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) sheds light on the role juice plays in a healthy diet. And here are the 5 things every parent needs to know:
1. Juice shouldn’t replace fruit or other nutritious foods
The problem isn’t that juice can’t be part of a healthy diet for children, it’s that it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for fruit or other nutritious foods. The AAP says…
…data revealed that children 2 to 18 years of age consume nearly half of their fruit intake as juice, which lacks dietary fiber and predisposes to excessive caloric intake.
Although weight gain is a concern, research shows there isn’t a significant link between juice and BMI. And some studies show that juice intake is associated with higher intakes of vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
The bottom-line is that juice shouldn’t be overconsumed, replacing more nutritious foods in the diet. So it comes down to “how much” and “how often.”
2. Check “how much” you are serving up
While 100% juice can play an important role in a balanced diet, letting your child sip on it all day isn’t a good idea. That’s because, unlike fruit, juice doesn’t contain fiber and it can be consumed in large amounts very easily. Large intakes of juice can also cause diarrhea.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no juice at all until age 1 and limiting juice to 4 ounces in 1-3 year olds, 4-6 ounces in 4-6 year olds and 8 ounces (1 cup) in 7-18 year olds.
3. Make sure you are choosing 100% Juice
When choosing fruit juice look for “100% fruit juice” on the package. This tells you that the juice is squeezed from the fruit or made from juice concentrate with some other ingredients like additional vitamin C. Fruit juice, like whole fruit, contains a variety of vitamins and minerals important for a balanced diet (minus the fiber).
Drinks that contain less than 100% juice are often called “juice drink,” “juice cocktail” or “juice blend.” These drinks contain less than 100% juice, have added sweeteners and are often fortified with vitamin C. Some contain so much sugar and little juice that they are, nutritionally speaking, similar to a can of soda. Take Sunny Delight for example. It may have added vitamin C (and now has calcium and D) but it’s first two ingredients are water and high fructose corn syrup and it contains 2% or less juice.
4. Watch “when” and “how” you serve juice
Sipping on juice throughout the day can increase the risk of cavities. The AAP recommends parents do not give juice in a bottle or a cup that’s easily transportable. And the best way to combat the risk of cavities is to serve juice with a meal or snack while letting your little one sip on water between meals. Avoid juice at bedtime too.
5. Get adventurous with juice
Who says you have to serve only apple, orange or cranberry juice? In fact, there are many antioxidant-rich juices on the market these days. Try pomegranate, blueberry or grape juice, which are especially high in antioxidants. Darker juices tend to be higher in these disease-fighting nutrients.
Try darker juices while making smoothies or simply use it as the juice of choice for the week.
When done right, 100% juice can be ae a sensible part of child’s diet. Does your child drink juice?
Post updated 5/30/17
Thank you for giving a balanced “ok” on juice! This has been such a struggle for our family with one of our children. It’s nice to not have someone vilify all juice all the time!
Jessica @ This Blessed Life says
I too used to be 100% against juice, but as the mom of a problem feeder I have learned to embrace it as a source of vitamins that my son will ingest. I’ve found that V-8 Fusion Strawberry Banana is a flavor he enjoys and it seems to have the most vitamins of any of the Fusion flavors. I still water it down a little for him, but I’m SO thankful for a way to get him some vitamin C!
Jessica @ This Blessed Life says
Not to mention a significant source of vitamin A and vitamin E, as well as lesser amounts of vitamin B6, calcium, iron, folate and magnesium! 🙂
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Thanks guys! Juice can fit into the diet and it depends on the child as Jessica points out. Big A loves juice but Little D just isn’t into it. He doesn’t love really sweet stuff!
Great article, Maryann! I have to say that not much drives me crazier than seeing those juice boxes after sports activities! It’s the last thing I want my kids to replenish fluids with. But the snacks are no better.
My kids enjoy 100% organic juice with breakfast, it’s sort of habit now. But they literally have about 4 to 6 ounces and we do not count it as a serving of fruit. I think that’s another place that parents go wrong with juice: claiming it as a serving of fruit. Let’s be real. At best it’s fortified flavor water. Real fruit is a real serving of fruit.
Alice Carroll says
Thanks for the tip that proper drinking of juice can help avoid potential dental problems. I’m currently looking for a juice concentrate supplier because I’m planning to alter my diet in order to have a stronger immune system. Having more natural juices will hopefully make my body absorb the vitamins better.