Q: My 13-month-old baby drinks a lot of fruit juice during the day and she does not drink any whole milk. Is that harmful?
A: 100 percent fruit juice can provide some nutrients to your toddler’s diet; however, consuming more than what’s currently recommended—the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends up to 4 to 6 ounces (1/2 to 3/4 cup) of fruit juice for 1 to 6 year olds—can crowd out other healthful, nutrient-rich foods (including fiber-rich fruit) in the diet, not to mention contribute to gas, bloating, diarrhea and other adverse symptoms.
Furthermore, because your toddler isn’t drinking any milk, she is missing out on its many key nutrients including protein, as well as calcium and vitamin D (important in the development of strong bones and teeth). The AAP and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend 2 cups of milk for children aged 1 to 8 years old (whole milk is recommended for 1 to 2 year olds, and 2 percent milk is recommended by the AAP for children between 12 months and 2 years if they’re overweight or have a family history of weight problems, high cholesterol, or heart disease).
I’d recommend for you to gradually cut back on fruit juice until your toddler consumes no more than 4 to 6 ounces daily; diluting it with water can aid the transition. You can also choose calcium-fortified fruit juices like orange juice, and start to offer milk (especially in between or right before a meal when she tends to be hungriest). Offer whole or 2 percent (reduced fat) milk at least once or twice a day on its own (preferably in a cup) or with oatmeal or dry whole grain cereal, or use it to make scrambled eggs or other dishes. Even if your toddler refuses the milk, keep offering it as well as yogurt; sometimes it takes up to 20 exposures to try or learn to accept a new food. If, over time, you realize your toddler is still not getting the equivalent of 2 cups of milk, make sure to consistently offer foods rich in calcium such as spinach, soybeans, white beans, kale, tofu and navy beans, and those rich in vitamin D such as sardines, tuna, fortified ready-to-eat whole grain cereal, and eggs.
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