Kids love juice. It’s sweet, quenches thirst, and tastes great. Chock full of vitamins and nutrients, fruit juices are certainly a better alternative to sugary sodas, but is it really healthy for your child?
Here’s what you need to know about what’s in that sippy cup.
Fructose Is Sugar, Too
Real fruit juices do contain a lot of the vitamins and minerals found in the original fruit, which offers your child great nutritional benefits. But there’s one major drawback: Fruit juices have a lot of natural sugar. Stripped from the fiber of the actual fruit, which would normally modulate the release of sugars into the bloodstream, fruit sugar can give your child a jittery energy spike. If your child drinks too much juice, too often, that sudden and frequent rush of extra sugar can contribute to unhealthy weight gain.
For those who have heard of “juice bottle syndrome,” you know that your child’s teeth can also be affected by the sugar in fruit juices. Every time they take a sip, they’re giving their teeth a sugar bath. This is why juice should be restricted to mealtimes, after which they brush their teeth clean, and babies should never be put to bed with bottles of juice. For best oral hygiene, avoid letting younger children carry around a juice box or bottle between meals.
Not All Fruit Juices Are Created Equal
It’s not just the natural sugars you have to worry about when serving up a juice drink to your toddler. Be sure to check the label of your choice carefully. Many “drinks,” “cocktails,” “-ades,” and “punches” are corn-syrup fortified or contain added sugar. Some have less than 10% real juice. These are junk juices and serve only to get your child hooked on sweetness without nutrition.
Look for bottles that are labeled “100% fruit juice” to be sure you’re serving up the maximum amount of vitamins and nutrients.
Indulge In Moderation
Because there are both benefits and drawbacks to serving juice to children, the American Academy of Pediatrics has weighed in on best practices. While they recommend whole fruits over fruit juices, they nod to juice’s many health benefits when offered sparingly.
- For children under one year of age, avoid fruit juices
- For children one to three years of age, limit fruit juice intake to 4 ounces a day
- For children four to six years of age, limit juice intake to 4 to 6 ounces a day
- For children seven to eighteen years of age, limit fruit juice intake to 8 ounces a day
If you find that your child drinks more juice than is recommended, consider diluting the juice with water to lessen the sugar content but still maintain the taste, and the cumulative nutrition.