Is fruit juice healthy for kids?

When it comes to juice, pay attention to how much your kids are drinking.

Woman holding a glass of juice.
Unlike whole fruit, juice contains no fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient that supports digestive health.

What comes to mind when someone says healthy drinks? Water, milk and juice are likely responses. When it comes to juice for your infant, toddler or child, the scientific community urges parents and caregivers to proceed with caution.

Interest in healthier beverages has been growing over the last several years. The National Academy of Science Food and Nutrition Board, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Healthy Eating Research, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are among leading groups helping to advance knowledge, discussion and recommendations related to juice consumption as it relates to obesity prevention and overall health. In 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made changes to their policy statement for juice intake. These changes were the first ones since the guidelines were initially published in 2001.

Some key considerations that influenced these changes:

  1. Juice tastes good to kids and may be their primary choice when presented with healthy drink options that also include water and low-sugar beverage options.
  2. Juice is often perceived as a healthy drink because of its vitamin C content and associated marketing efforts that highlight those vitamins.
  3. Juice has a fair amount of calories that are easy to consume quickly, which can lead to unintended weight gain and tooth decay if frequently consumed.
  4. Unlike whole fruit, juice contains no fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient that supports digestive health.

The authors of the APP statement highlights key conclusions and recommendations around juice for infants, toddlers, children and adolescents.

Age

Recommendation

Under age 1

No Juice

1-3 years

Up to ½ cup, or 4 ounces /day

4-6 years

Up to ¾ of a cup, or 6 ounces/day

7-18 years

Up to 1 cup, or 8 ounces/day


In addition to specific amount recommendations, the AAP suggests the following:

  • Refrain from letting children walk around with juice in a bottle or a sippy cup, or providing juice at bedtimes. This can lead to frequent, sugary baths to the teeth that can contribute to decay, as well as an expectation that a sweet drink is always available.
  • It is healthier for your child to eat whole fruit and vegetables instead of juice, which can help establish long-term healthy eating habits.

Michigan State University Extension offers educational classes on healthy food and beverage choices and technical assistance to early child care providers who are interested in supporting a healthy food and beverage environment.

Do you want to learn more?

To help people be healthy at every stage of life, Michigan State University Extension delivers affordable, relevant, evidence-based education to serve the needs of adults, youth and families in urban and rural communities.

Our programs cover all areas of health, from buying and preparing nutritious, budget-friendly food to managing stress, preventing or living well with diabetes and optimal aging – MSU Extension has the information you need in a format you can use, in-person and online. Contact your local MSU Extension county office to find a class near you.


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