Not news that pediatricians recommend against juice. But the news this week is clearer: no juice for babies, only tiny bits for toddlers, and less than a cup a day for the rest of us. Fruit juice is widely thought of as a healthy and natural source of vitamins and hydration. And although I won’t vilify having juice in the diet of an older child, I can’t endorse it’s ever good for a child. Pediatric recommendations for juice got stricter this week. Juice is never really recommended in an a child’s diet past ounces to a cup a day but now it’s recommended as a NEVER during infancy.

Although whole fruit (i.e. an apple or an entire avocado or apricot) is one of the main focus foods in the Dietary Guidelines of Americans, fruit juice may feel a thoughtful substitute, but it’s not. In fact, even 100% fruit juice offers no real nutritional benefit and it’s never needed. The short list for why?

  • Juice is just a bunch of water and simple sugars (naturally occurring sugar is sugar) and lacks fiber or protein.
  • When you obtain calories from juice you take them in at a faster rate than is ideal. Juice is known to contribute to overweight and excess energy imbalance in children. We don’t need to drink these calories.
  • Whole fruit has the advantage of containing quality fiber that’s good for us.

What is Fruit Juice

  • Predominantly water and carbohydrates (sucrose, fructose, glucose and sorbitol)
  • Some juices have naturally occurring high contents of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C, and many store-bought juices have vitamin additives (orange juice often will have added vitamin D, for example).
  • Juice for infants typically do not contain sulfites or added sugars yet has nearly twice the carbohydrate load of more ideal breast milk or infant formula. It’s never ideal to replace breast milk or formula with juice. Water, after 6 months, and whole fruit/mushed up fruit is better.

Know what you’re buying:

To be labeled as a fruit juice, the US Food and Drug Administration mandates that a product be 100% fruit juice. For juices reconstituted from concentrate, the label must state that the product is reconstituted from concentrate. Any beverage that is less than 100% fruit juice must list the percentage of the product that is fruit juice, and the beverage must include a descriptive term, such as “drink,” “beverage,” or “cocktail.”

Many products on the market have juice ingredients and aren’t entirely juice even when they appear that way. I think of those as sugar-sweetened beverages much like soda.

Effects of Fruit Juice

  • Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits for infants younger than 1 year – drinking juice fills them with approximately double the load of carbohydrates than breast milk for formula.
  • For toddlers and children it replaces things that have fiber and protein.
  • Sipping on juice throughout the day (in a bottle or sippy cup) leads to increased risk of dental decay. In a cup or nothing!
  • Excessive juice consumption is associated with diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal distention, and tooth decay.
  • Excessive juice consumption may be associated with malnutrition (over-nutrition and under-nutrition).

American Academy of Pediatrics Juice Recommendations

The latest recommendations for juice during childhood include:

  • Do not give juice to infants before 1 year of age.
  • Do not put juice in bottles or sippy cups, and do not give it to them at bedtime – reduce time allowed to consume juice easily throughout the day.
  • Encourage eating whole fruit to meet their recommended daily fruit intake.
  • Avoid juice if your child has diarrhea – it is not appropriate in the treatment or management of dehydration.
  • Recommended maximum amount of juice:
    • 1 to 3 years old – 4 ounces/day
    • 4 to 6 years old – 4 to 6 ounces/day
    • 7 to 18 years old – 8 ounces or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2.5 cups of fruit servings per day