If you have young children, you probably know how much they love juice.
You may think this sweet drink is a healthy alternative to other beverages,
but juice is not as healthy as the commercials advertise. The American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released a new
advisory recommending that children under 1 year of age should not have any juice,
and that toddlers and older children should be limited to small amounts.
According to the AAP, juice is not necessary for a young child’s
development and can potentially lead to health problems down the road.
Why are pediatricians concerned with small children drinking juice? Are
there ways to limit juice consumption in your household? Board-certified
Katherine Williamson, MD, of
Mission Hospital, weighs in:
Juice can lead to weight gain and poor nutrition. Drinking juice can lead to children developing a taste for sweets that
will be hard to break later on. Dr. Williamson says, “I often see
young children in my practice who are hooked on sugary foods. This can
lead to obesity or--on the other end of the spectrum--undernourishment.
On the one hand, because fruit juice is high in calories per serving,
overconsumption can lead to unwanted
weight gain. On the other hand,
juice does not contain anywhere near the same amount of protein per calorie
that fresh fruit does; therefore, children who fill up on juice may be
foregoing a vital element of their nutrition." For example, one medium
apple contains 0.47 grams of protein and 95 calories. In contrast, one
cup of apple juice contains 0.25 grams of protein and 114 calories--around
half the protein in the apple.
Choose your juice wisely. Many of the juices on your supermarket shelf contain added sugar, which
can settle on your child’s teeth and cause dental cavities. A better
alternative is 100-percent fruit juice, but it still contains a high number
of calories. Be sure to use the recommended
serving size for your child’s age group. The AAP suggests that if you must give
your child juice, limit the serving size to 4 ounces a day for children
between the ages of 1 and 3. Children between the ages of 4 and 6 years
old can drink up to 6 ounces a day.
Treat juice like a snack. Dr. Williamson say, "Think of juice as a short-term beverage--something
your child only gets to have occasionally, like a snack, and drinks all at once.
Water should be the drink of first choice when kids get thirsty." Dr. Williamson
discourages the use of serving juice in sippy cups because your child
will probably carry it around and end up drinking juice throughout the
day, instead of finishing it in one sitting. “The only drink a child
should be walking around with all day is water,” says Dr. Williamson.
“If your child is having a juice snack, help him or her drink it
from a small cup or juice box, or better yet skip the juice all together
and go with whole fruit and water.”
Infants only need to drink breast milk or formula. For children under 1 year of age, Dr. Williamson recommends they drink
breast milk or formula exclusively, and as they near a year of age they
can drink water as well. Juice is not recommended for children under 1
year of age. Solids can begin between 4 to 6 months of age, and advance
per recommendation of your pediatrician. For children age 1 and older,
start phasing out the breast milk for cow’s
milk as well as water, and specifically for ages 1 to 2 the milk should be
whole milk. “Whole milk contains fats that will help your child’s
brain develop," says Dr. Williamson. "If your child is overweight
however, your pediatrician may recommend the milk should be low-fat."
Keep in mind that even milk should not be given excessively. Children
over the age of 1 year should have a maximum of 12 ounces of milk daily
as excess milk can contribute to excess calorie consumption, dental cavities,
and nutritional deficiencies such as iron-deficiency.
Fresh fruit is a better option. When we remove the liquid from the fruit, we are essentially extracting
sugar water and throwing away the essential vitamins and minerals in the
peel and the flesh. Whole fruit has protein and fiber your child needs
to satiate hunger, and it also provides nutrients that decrease the risk
of heart disease and certain cancers, which is something you should be
thinking about even when your kids are at an early age.
Ultimately, swapping juice for water, milk and fresh fruits will lead your
child to develop healthy eating habits which will positively influence
their nutrition in the future. Dr. Williamson say, “Eating fruit,
instead of drinking it, teaches kids a good habit. What they learn as
kids, they will keep doing as they grow and mature into adults.”
What tips or rules do you have for juice-drinking in your household? Share
in the comments below.