Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released their new recommendations for children’s fruit juice consumption. The AAP warns that fruit juice can become a problem because it is easily over-consumed by young children who enjoy the taste, and parents usually do not set limits because juice is often viewed as nutritious. Rainie Carter, a clinical nutritionist at Children’s of Alabama, says, “For years, families viewed juice as a healthy way to provide their child with more vitamins and minerals. The reality is that, when the fiber is stripped from the fruit to create juice, we are left with a product that similar to a sugary soda. The body’s blood sugar response mimics that of a soda, and there can be consequences if the product is consumed too often.” Recent research associates excessive juice consumption with intestinal gas, tooth decay, and unhealthy weight gain. “In clinical practice, I have seen both ends of the spectrum — excessive weight gain and inadequate weight gain. When children over consume juice, they gain from the unneeded calories or they have very little appetite for solid, nutritious foods,” Carter states.
The first update since 2001, these guidelines encourage parents to limit the juice servings for children over 1 year of age and to avoid giving juice to infants under 1 year of age.
Infants (under 1 year of age)
The new guidelines indicate that fruit juice should not be given to children under 1 year of age (unless recommended by the child’s pediatrician) as “no additional nutrients are needed” to supplement human milk or prepared infant formula. The AAP advises against giving juice before introducing solid foods to the child’s diet to ensure that the child receives all necessary nutrients from milk or formula that cannot be replaced by juice.
Children (over 1 year of age)
The AAP also advises parents to reduce amount of 100% fruit juice given to older children. The portion sizes should be restricted to 4 ounces for children ages 1-3 years, 4-6 ounces for children ages 4-6 years and 8 ounces for those 7 and older. It is also important to avoid giving juice in a bottle or portable covered cup, opting instead for an open cup to reduce the amount of time teeth are exposed to the carbohydrate in juice products, which can lead to dental decay.
The importance of providing fresh, whole fruit to children is also emphasized, reminding parents that it is recommended to provide 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit servings per day. Of this, no more than 1 cup should be replaced by 100% fruit juice. The AAP also warns that replacing the recommended fruit intake with juice does not promote the establishment of healthy eating behaviors. “Establishing healthier eating behaviors early on in life means healthier eating later in life as well. If children are given a variety of foods on a consistent basis, they will typically become less prone to picky eating,” Carter adds.
Infants can consume mashed or pureed fruit such as applesauce or fruit-based baby foods. Older children need the protein and fiber contained in whole fruits to maintain good colon health. Parents should encourage children to consume whole fruit and depend on water as the primary source of hydration. “Fiber helps to slow digestion and keep a person feeling fuller longer so whole fruit is a better choice than juice in many ways. Updating the consumption guidelines to include more fiber-rich fruits and less juice will help consumers make more well-informed decisions about their health,” Carter notes.