Limiting juice in child care programs

The revised CACFP meal patterns limit the amount of juice that can be served to a child in one day at child care centers.

Child care providers play an important role in shaping our children’s eating and drinking habits. The United States Census Bureau shows that over 50 percent of children are in a child care setting, away from their parents. Fruit juices are commonly served to children instead of soda, but too much juice may not be the best choice for children. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) updated Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal patterns limits fruit juice to one age-appropriate serving of 100 percent juice per day for children older than 1-year-old. Child care centers and homes will not be reimbursed if they serve juice to infants less than 1-year-old. Starting Oct. 1, 2017, child care providers will have a one-year transition period to switch to the new nutrition standards.

The age-appropriate servings for 100 percent juice are:

  • 4 ounces for children ages 1-3 years
  • 4-6 ounces for children ages 4-6 years
  • 8 ounces for those 7 and older

Fruit juice can be a part of a healthy diet; however, it should not be a child’s main source of fruit during the day. Even though fruit juice has the same vitamins and minerals as whole fruits do, they have less fiber and more sugar and calories than whole fruits. The 1999-2000 Committee on Nutrition found that fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits for infants under the age of 6 months and has no nutritional benefits over whole fruit for children older than 6 months old. The committee also reported that drinking too much juice may be associated with diarrhea, tooth decay, and malnutrition. All of these reasons play into why the USDA has changed their recommendations on how much juice should be served to children in a day.

Instead of serving children fruit juice, water is a great way to keep kids hydrated without giving them extra calories or sugar. Infuse water with sliced fruits, vegetables, and herbs to give children a fruity drink without all of the extra sugar and calories. Let the water infuse for at least 15 minutes before drinking it and leave it for up to 4 hours for the freshest flavors. Add as much or as little fruit as you like! Making flavored water is flexible and how much fruit or water you add depends on how strong you want your water to be. Try some of the flavor combinations below for a pitcher of fresh water that kids will love to try!

  • Cucumber and mint
  • Strawberry and lime
  • Orange and blueberry
  • Watermelon and basil
  • Raspberry and mint

The USDA’s recommendations on how much fruit juice can be served per day is a great chance to cut back on how much sugar kids are drinking and get them to try new flavors. More information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program and nutrition education for child care providers can be found on the Michigan State University Extension website.

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