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Mother handing son orange juice

Kids and juice: Pediatricians provide new guidelines for parents

As busy parents, it can be tough to keep up with changing recommendations about what is — and isn’t — good for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released new recommendations relating to fruit juice and children and I think they’re worth paying attention to.

Stating that “fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit to children under age 1,” the AAP’s new recommendation is that fruit juice not be given to any child under 1 year of age. This expands their 2001 recommendation that advised against giving fruit juice to children under 6 months.

As a pediatrician, I fully support their updated guidelines. With the rising rate of childhood obesity and poor pediatric dental health, I encourage any steps parents can take to instill healthy habits at a young age. Good health habits as children lead to good health habits as adults.

Fruit juice is not a good substitute for fresh fruit

Some parents might be confused by this new recommendation as many people think of fruit as a healthy snack. And when consumed in moderation and in its solid form, it absolutely is. But when fruit is juiced, the fiber and protein are removed and what’s left is essentially sugar and water.

In a single eight-ounce glass of juice, your child is consuming the approximate sugar equivalent of two grapefruits, three medium apples, four oranges or more than a pound of grapes or cranberries. You wouldn’t give your child a pound of grapes to eat as a snack, would you?

Additionally, when it comes to dental health, all that sugar (not to mention the citric acid of orange or grapefruit juices) can have a damaging effect on your child’s teeth. Repeated and prolonged exposure to fruit juice can wear down tooth enamel and lead to cavities and tooth decay.

What parents need to know

The full recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics include:

  • No juice for infants under 1.
  • For toddlers age 1-3, juice should be limited to 4 ounces per day.
  • Juice should be given in a cup, not a bottle or “sippy cup,” which allows children to consume juice easily throughout the day. Additionally, toddlers should not be given juice at bedtime.
  • For children age 4-6, juice should be limited to 4 to 6 ounces per day.
  • For children ages 7-18, juice should be limited to 8 ounces per day.
  • Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits.
  • Human milk or infant formula is preferred for infants, and low-fat/nonfat milk and water are preferred for older children.
  • Children who take specific forms of medication – ibuprofen, flurbiprofen, warfarin, phenytoin, fluvastatin and amitriptyline – should not be given grapefruit juice, which can interfere with the medication’s effectiveness. Also, fruit juice is not appropriate for the treatment of dehydration.