In May, the American Academy of Pediatrics – which has long advocated fresh fruit over fruit juice for kids – recommended that children under age 1 drink no fruit juice at all, the Academy’s first updating of advice about juice since 2001.
The Academy also recommended limiting fruit juice to four ounces a day for ages 1-3, four to six ounces for ages 4-6 and eight ounces for older children.
Health education specialist Carolyn Buenaflor, leader of the Healthy Habits program at Cedars-Sinai, says she has noticed more juice-drinking by toddlers than by infants. “You see a lot of sippy cups,” she says. “What’s in there is a lot of juice.”
The main objection to juice is that it lacks the healthy fiber found in actual fruit, and packs a big dose of sugar. “Even 100-percent fruit juice has quite a bit of sugar,” says Buenaflor. Instead, infants should drink breast milk or formula and older kids should drink milk or water most of the time.
To help kids kick the juice habit, try adding cut up fruit such as strawberries, lemon or blueberries to plain or sparkling water to create a fun, flavored drink without the added sugar. When you do allow juice, check the label to make sure what you are buying is 100 percent juice, without added sugar, and limit your child’s intake.
“Four ounces is not a whole lot,” Buenaflor says, explaining it is about the amount that a newborn’s bottle will hold.
To get your kids to eat more fruit (part of the reason for ditching the juice), Buenaflor suggests a project called “Fruit Faces.” Cut up a variety of colorful fruit, give your kids whole-wheat tortillas spread with a thin layer of peanut butter or cream cheese and let them decorate a fun snack. She has found that even first graders take to this project with gusto and enjoy eating the results.