Q: My 4 year old daughter only wants to drink orange juice everyday. Could there be any harm in that?
A: It’s definitely not the biggest health issue your daughter will ever face, but drinking nothing but orange juice can indeed cause some problems, including an increased risk for obesity, tooth decay, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems, such as excessive gas and abdominal discomfort. The juice dilemma is such an important issue that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report to address it, entitled The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children between the ages of one and six years drink no more than 4 to 6 ounces of 100 percent pasteurized fruit juice each day. Instead of drinking more juice, children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits. When children are thirsty, they should be offered water to drink.
Juice is extremely sweet, and as a result, most children love the taste of it. But when kids drink too much juice, their stomachs get filled up and they may not have a good appetite for other nutritious foods. While your daughter may be getting plenty of calories from orange juice, these calories come from sugars, rather than from fat and protein, which are critical for your daughter’s good health and for her proper growth and development.
If you want to reduce your daughter’s juice consumption, you might start by offering her water or milk before you offer her juice. If she isn’t willing to drink these other beverages, you may want to begin progressively diluting her orange juice with water, so that she isn’t getting as much sugar and as many calories with every serving. If your efforts are gradual and consistent, you’ll be able to help her make the transition from juice to other beverages, such as water and milk, without creating a lot of stress for either of you.