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As a new parent, there are a million things to remember – and we’re sorry to say that we’re adding one more point to the list.
While juice might seem like an innocuous drink, it’s time to put it on the no-go list for your baby’s diet. Like honey and caffeine, this beverage can present some big problems, and your child’s teeth are the first to suffer.
Earlier guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that infants under 6 months should not receive juice, but those older than 6 months could partake. This new recommendation is based on a broad range of evidence showing that fruit juice can have significant negative impact, and offers little to no nutritional evidence.
Sixteen years later, the AAP have extended this time frame, based on a wealth of evidence that suggests that fruit juice may do more harm than good in the first 12 months of life.
Learning more about why juice is secretly scary will help guide you as you decide on other eating choices for your child as they grow – we’ve got everything you need to know below.
Isn’t Fruit Juice Healthy?
Even if a bottle states that the contents are 100% fruit juice, there’s a lot of sugar accompanying the vitamin C. Some fruit juices are high in vitamins and key minerals, but that doesn’t offset the amount of sugar and lack of fiber. Some juices actually contain as much as 2 teaspoons of sugar in just a 100-mL serving.
Studies performed over the last few years have led experts to state that juice is one of the biggest causes of dental erosion for children’s teeth. Research also connect early juice consumption to childhood obesity. Limiting sugar is always crucial, and your children learn habits while young that lead to long-term health and good eating choices.
While juice seems healthy, it’s a poor substitute for fresh fruit, and far more laden with sugar and calories. Older kids can drink small amounts, but there’s no reason for children under 1 to sip it.
Let’s break down what it is that the AAP said about juice restrictions for your kids, and what they should be drinking instead.
How to Restrict Juice & Provide Healthy Snacks Instead
Children shouldn’t go crazy with juice as soon as they hit their first birthday. Here’s how much juice the AAP states children can consume, by age:
- Toddlers (ages 1-3) – No more than 4oz of fruit juice daily
- Children (4-6) – No more than 4-6oz of fruit juice daily
- Older kids & teens (7-18) – No more than 8oz of fruit juice daily
It’s also important to pay attention to how your children drink juice. Bottles and sippy cups can be a big problem because they facilitate all-day sipping. This leads to the teeth being exposed to sugar, acidic attacks on an ongoing basis.
The juice restrictions don’t stop there – they also recommend that all children avoid unpasteurized juice products. Children on medications with certain interactions should also avoid grapefruit juice – check on food restrictions whenever your child starts a new medication to be safe.
Children should always be guided toward whole fruits rather than juice as a source of healthy nutrients. Talk to your kids about why whole fruits are healthier and all the benefits they offer. They’ll take more interest in their personal health when they understand why they should make these better, juice-free choices.
How Do I Get My Kids to Drink Healthy Beverages?
If your kids are currently big juice drinkers, the transition could be a little rocky. But their tastes can change – we promise! Try the tips below to get them drinking more milk and water (the two drinks children should be consuming daily), and less of the sweet stuff.
- Cut back gradually – Slowly offer your kids less juice each day – you can dilute it with water to help the transition. And offer milk right before meals when they’re hungriest. You can also cook oatmeal or scrambled eggs with milk to sneak some in, or give your kids sugar-free or low sugar cereal for breakfast.
- Try other sources of calcium – If your child won’t drink milk, make sure they get yogurt daily – you can add fresh fruit or cereal to make it more appealing.
- Try new things – Toddlers can learn to like new foods, but they need to accomplish this through regular tastes of the offending item. It can take up to 20 tries for them to get accustomed to the taste or accept the food, so keep at it on a regular basis. This is true for vegetables too! Even if it’s feeling hopeless, make sure they keep trying the problem food – until one day, it won’t be a problem any longer.
- Try calcium-fortified juice – If they absolutely won’t drink anything other than juice, get a fortified option that has extra nutrients and some of the calcium they need daily (especially if they dislike milk).
As always, make sure to keep scheduling your kids’ regular exams. We can check in with you at their appointments and give feedback on whether their diets might contain too much sugar.