The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated its recommendations regarding fruit juice consumption in young children.
The AAP previously advised parents to avoid giving their children fruit juice during the first six months of life, however, this has now been increased to the first year.
Responding to the increasing global obesity crisis and growing awareness of the causes of dental cavities, the AAP now states that babies shouldn’t have fruit juice until after their first birthday.
What’s Wrong With Fruit Juice?
For many years, fruit juice has been considered a healthy drink. Fruit is a common part of a child’s diet, and many parents may be left wondering why fruit juice can’t be used as a way of adding additional fruits to their baby’s diet.
One of the big concerns with fruit juice is the amount of sugar it contains.
Even with no added sugar, the sugars in the fruits themselves can cause dental cavities when consumed in juice form.
Whole fruit (including the skin) is generally higher in fibre, more filling and therefore a better source of nutrients.
Another concern is that juice takes the place of water, breast milk and formula milk for those do not breastfeed.
Breast milk and formula milk are nutritionally superior to juice and are specially formulated to ensure babies get the right nutrients. If a baby fills up on juice, they may not consume enough calories or nutrients through breast or formula milk.
The AAP’s updated guidelines advise pediatricians to warn families the fruit juice contains minimal nutrition and should not be offered to infants.
They also recommend offering only limited amounts to toddlers and older children. Children aged between one and three years of age should have a maximum of four ounces of fruit juice a day, though there is no need to offer fruit juice at all to children who eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Formula fed babies only need formula until 12 months of age, after which point they can drink full fat cows milk, or ideally, water.
Doctor Andrew Orr, who is both a doctor and nutritionist, supports the move to cut sugary fruit juices from children’s diets, saying, “They simply don’t need the sugar. Even beyond 12 months of age, fruit juice is not nutritionally necessary for anyone. It only serves to add excess sugar into a diet.”
Children can thrive on diets without sugar. Meet Grace, a toddler who has been raised on a clean food diet, and never eaten sugar.
How And When To Give Fruit Juice
The AAP also recommends that children should be educated in the value of eating whole foods and the importance of fibre in the diet.
For those who want to provide fruit juice for their toddlers, the AAP recommends offering this in an open cup rather than a bottle or sippy cup.
Prolonged exposure to the sugars in fruit juice can increase the risk of dental cavities, so fruit juice should only be offered with meals rather than consumed throughout the day.
By offering your toddler water instead of juice or other sweetened drinks, your children will learn a valuable healthy habit from a young age, and will be accustomed to drinking unsweetened drinks.
Also bear in mind that they won’t ask you for what you don’t have stocked in the cupboard or fridge. You won’t be taking something enjoyable away from their childhood. Instead, you’re giving them the gift of better health, supporting their immune system and reducing their chances of needing dental work (which is usually under an anaesthetic at this age).
Recommended Reading: 7 Things To Avoid Putting In Your Baby’s Bottle.