Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether or not children should drink juice. Some parents wouldn’t dream of bringing it in to their home while others couldn’t last a day without giving it to their kids. But what’s the real scoop behind juice and its role in your little one’s diet?
Here are 5 things every parent needs to know about buying and serving the fruity drink that most kids love.
1. Look for 100% fruit juice:
When choosing fruit juice look for “100% fruit juice” on the package. This tells you that the juice is squeezed from the fruit or made from juice concentrate with some other ingredients like additional vitamin C. Fruit juice, like whole fruit, contains a variety of vitamins and minerals important for a balanced diet.
A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, looked at the diets of children 2-11 years old. The kids who consumed 100% fruit juice had lower intakes of fat and saturated fats and higher intakes of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, iron, and whole fruit than those not drinking juice. There was no association between fruit juice intake and being overweight.
2. Check “how much” you are serving up:
While 100% juice can play an important role in a balanced diet, letting your child sip on it all day isn’t a good idea. That’s because, unlike fruit, juice doesn’t contain fiber and it can be consumed in large amounts very easily, taking the place of other nutritious foods in the diet.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting juice to 4-6 ounces for children 1 to 6 years old and 8-12 ounces for kids 7-18 years old. Many of the sippy cups for toddlers and older children hold up to 16 ounces so measure the amount recommended once and then eye ball it. If your child wants more try watering it down.
3. Be on the look-out for juice drinks:
Drinks that contain less than 100% juice are often called “juice drink,” “juice cocktail” or “juice blend.” These drinks contain less than 100% juice, have added sweeteners and are often fortified with vitamin C. Some contain so much sugar and little juice that they are, nutritionally speaking, similar to a can of soda. Take Sunny Delight for example. It may have added vitamin C (and now has calcium and D) but it’s first two ingredients are water and high fructose corn syrup and it contains 2% or less juice.
4. Watch “when” and “how” you serve juice:
Sipping on juice throughout the day can increase the risk of dental cavities. The AAP recommends parents give juice in a cup, never in a bottle, for babies 6 months or older. And the best way to combat the risk of cavities is to serve juice with a meal or snack while letting your little one sip on water between meals.
5. Get adventurous with juice:
Who says you have to serve only apple, orange or cranberry juice? In fact, there are many antioxidant-rich juices on the market these days. Try pomegranate, blueberry or grape juice, which are especially high in antioxidants. Darker juices tend to be higher in these disease-fighting nutrients.
Try darker juices while making smoothies or simply use it as the juice of choice for the week.
When done right, 100% juice can play an important role in your child’s diet. And it’s especially refreshing all summer long.
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For more on what to feed your kids see our Nutrition for Children section.
Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE, Kleinman R. Association between 100% juice consumption and nutrient intake and weight of children aged 2-11 years. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med;162(6) 557-565.