I do not believe that 100% fruit juice is as evil for kids as it can be made out to be. If you know anything about my philosophy by reading previous blogs, you know that I definitely do not believe in categorizing foods as "good" vs "bad". A parent who provides a child with juice is not "bad" and a parent who does not is not "good". I believe that 100% fruit juice (I'm not talking about the stuff that's 5% juice and the rest water and sugar, i.e., "fruit drink", "cocktail" or "juice beverage") can be a nutritious part of a child's diet. In fact, 100% fruit juice does offer valuable nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin A, C and B6, magnesium, iron, and folate, in addition to flavonoids.
Some people fear fruit juice because of the....aaaak...sugar! Oh no! Guess what? While 100% fruit juice does contain naturally occurring fruit sugar (fructose) along with some other types of naturally occurring sugar, it does not contain added sugar, and again, it's got some important nutrients in it. What it does not contain is a lot of fiber, so that is one knock against it. Interestingly, kiddos who consume 100% fruit juice also take in less total fat, saturated fat, added fat and added sugar than non-juice consumers.
Another big concern over fruit juice is that will make a child overweight. It is true that our hunger is not as satisfied with foods/beverages in liquid vs solid or even semi-solid form, so we can more easily overdo it on calories when consuming liquid sources, such as fruit juice, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and sodas. While there have been a few studies detecting some relationship between fruit juice consumption and childhood overweight, most studies (14 in the last 10 years), found no relationship between fruit juice consumption and overweight in children. There's likely a combination of factors affecting rising rates of obesity in children and fruit juice alone is not the single culprit.
The other beef some people have with fruit juice is that it serves as a substitute for milk. However, recent research shows no significant difference in cow juice consumption between juice consumers and non-juice consumers.
So, what do I suggest? Moderation. What is moderation? I tend to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for fruit juice consumption.
- Fruit juice should not be introduced to infants <6 months of age. (Human milk is the the best source of nutrition for children of this age.)
- For children 1-6 years old, fruit juice intake should be limited to 4-6 oz/d.
- For children 7-18 years old, fruit juice intake should be limited to 8-12 oz/d.
- Children should be encouraged to consume whole fruits to meet their daily fruit intake.
- Offer water or milk (non-fat or 1% for kids ages 2+) first.
- Dilute the juice with water.
- Offer "icy juice". Fill a cup full of ice, then pour 100% fruit juice over it.