Once a staple in children’s diets, fruit juice has gotten a bad rap recently for being packed with sugar.
True, fruit juice has sugar and calories kids consume quickly. Too much juice may contribute to weight gain and tooth decay, but small servings aren’t harmful.
You don’t have to cut juice from your children’s diet, but limit intake and check nutrition labels before buying it, said Rhonda Seifert, a registered dietitian at Marshfield Clinic.
Recommended limits on juice intake
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting how much juice kids in different age groups drink.
- Younger than 6 months: Don’t give fruit juice to infants these ages
- 1-6 years: Limit to 4-6 ounces per day
- 7-18 years: Limit to 8-12 ounces per day
Juice can replace one serving of whole fruit per day at the most, Seifert said. Whole fruits have nutrients juices don’t, like fiber for healthy digestion.
Serve water or milk as a beverage instead of any juice, including light and sugar-free products.
“Promote plain water so kids form healthy habits going into adulthood,” Seifert said.
Choose 100 percent juice
Juice used to replace a fruit serving should be 100 percent juice.
Packages labeled “fruit juice cocktail” usually aren’t 100 percent juice, but don’t rely on the front label, Seifert said. Check nutrition labels on the back of packages. The only ingredient should be 100 percent juice. Avoid juices with added sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
“Juice can be a big source of sugar,” Seifert said. “Your body doesn’t know the difference between natural and added sugar. If sugar from juice is a big part of your child’s diet, cut back.”
Are fortified juices a better choice?
Juice fortified with vitamin D or calcium can supplement nutrients kids get from food. Not every child needs fortified juice.
Try calcium-fortified juice if your child refuses milk or is lactose intolerant, Seifert said. Limit fortified juice by AAP recommendations just as you would regular juice.
“Fortified juice is only one part of increasing calcium intake,” she said. “Kids shouldn’t get all their calcium from juice, but a small amount is a good boost.”