A sippy cup of apple juice is a staple in a lot of diaper bags, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says that needs to change.
In new recommendations released this week, the AAP advises against giving any juice to children younger than 1. If parents choose to serve it to toddlers, they should give no more than 4 ounces a day of 100-percent fruit juice (not fruit "drinks") and serve it in a cup alongside meals and snacks.
According to the policy statement, kids are prone to drink a lot of fruit juice because it tastes good. Children are the highest consumers of juice and juice drinks, with nearly half of their fruit intake coming from juice. Because many parents view juice as a healthy beverage, they may not put limits on portions, and sippy cups and juice boxes make it all too easy to transport juice around and drink it all day.
But juice is high in sugar (even though it's natural sugar), which can translate into excess calories and weight gain for some kids. On the other hand, it may cause other kids to gain too little weight, if they're filling their bellies with juice and therefore not hungry for meals. Frequently sipping on juice also puts kids at higher risk for cavities, as the carbohydrates wash over the teeth and can cause decay.
Nutritionally, juice lacks the fiber that whole fruit has. "Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit for infants and children and has no essential role in healthy, balanced diets of children," the authors write.
Fruit juice is also a culprit in toddler's diarrhea, and too much juice can also cause gas, bloating, and belly pain. The new recommendations advise against using juice as a treatment for dehydration or diarrhea.
The policy statement also puts new, stricter limits on portion sizes for toddlers and beyond. Here's the advice, age-by-age:
Babies younger than 6 months: No fruit juice at all. Juice at this age can cause nutritional problems if it replaces breast milk or formula.
Babies 6-12 months: It's best to avoid juice completely. Serve mashed or pureed whole fruit instead. If juice is needed for a medical reason, give it in a cup (not a bottle). Never put a baby to bed with a bottle of juice, which can lead to tooth decay.
Kids 1-3 years: No more than 4 ounces a day of 100-percent juice. If serving it, give it in a cup along with meals or snacks. Avoid allowing kids to have sippy cups of juice throughout the day (keep in mind that diluting juice with water does not decrease the risk of cavities). Continue to focus on whole fruit over juice.
Kids 4-6 years: No more than 4-6 ounces a day of 100-percent juice.
Kids 7-18 years: No more than 8 ounces a day of 100-percent juice.
How do you handle juice in your house?
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author ofThe Snacktivist's Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.