Juice is one sugary beverage that people perceive as healthy, compared to other sweetened beverages like sports drinks and sodas. People may consider juice to be healthy simply because it comes from fruit; however, the high sugar content is a red flag that can lead to issues further down the road. Some juices even have large amounts of added sugars in it on top of the great amount of natural sugars from the fruit itself. So why are we insisting on giving our children juice?
Juice is usually well-liked and tolerated by young children, which may be why we find it easy to give to our children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice to 4 oz for children 1-3 year, 4-6 oz for children 4-6 years, and 8 oz for children 7-18 years of age. Juice is not recommended for children under the age of 1 year. On average, children ages 2-5 consume 10 ounces of juice per day. Kids certainly don’t need as much juice as we think! While juice may provide several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, too much juice in a child’s diet can contribute to certain health conditions such as obesity and tooth decay.
Obesity rates in the United States have risen over the years and affects 19% of children. That is a large percentage of children! Perhaps sugary beverages including juice are contributing to that statistic. Juice has high amounts of natural sugars and calories and lacks the fiber one would get from eating whole fruits. It’s a beverage that can be drank quite quickly and easily, and without the fiber content, does not keep bellies feeling full. Lacking satiety may lead to more snacking and increased calorie intake throughout the day. Diabetes typically goes hand in hand with obesity as well. Research shows that consuming juice is associated with increased risk of diabetes. However, we see the opposite with certain fresh fruit—we see a decreased risk of diabetes. Fresh fruit is recommended over fruit juice any day!
While fruit juice is not a necessary part of obtaining an adequate diet, you should consider the following if you choose to incorporate it in your child’s diet. It is recommended that the juice be 100% fresh or reconstituted fruit juice. Consider watering down juice to cut out some calories and sugars. Children should not be given juice in a bottle or sippy cup, especially at night in bed, as this promotes tooth decay.
As a society, we need to aim for lower obesity and diabetes rates in the United States. By restricting high sugar beverages like juice, we can promote healthy diets and lifestyles that can prevent unwanted health conditions.
- Kit BK, Fakhouri TH, Park S, Nielsen SJ, Ogden CL. Trends in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among youth and adults in the United States: 1999–2010. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jul 1;98(1):180–8..
- American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends No Fruit Juice For Children Under 1 Year [Internet]. [cited 2018 Aug 30]. Available from: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Recommends-No-Fruit-Juice-For-Children-Under-1-Year.aspx
Thank you to dietetic intern Molly Lowery for her contributions to and creation of this post.