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Healthy Habits: Juice and Kids

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Hispanic boy drinking juice with straw
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It may surprise you to hear that over consumption of juice can contribute to obesity. A recent study of small children found that those who consumed more than 12 ounces a day were more overweight than other children. While this study is not conclusive evidence, it is worthy of mention.

It is not uncommon for children to want to drink juice all day long. For children, juice can be a refreshing drink, but drinking too much is not good. Along with a potential link to obesity, juice can replace healthier foods, cause diarrhea and promote tooth decay.

One hundred percent fruit juice in moderate servings can be perfectly fine for your child. Keep in mind that most recommendations about juice are actually limits though, and you usually don't have to give your child any juice at all.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has the following recommendation about juice:

  • Children under 6 years old, should not drink more than 4-6 ounces of juice per day.
  • Older children, 7-18 years old, can drink 8 to 12 ounces of 100% juice each day.
  • Juice should not be introduced until your infant is about 6 months old.
  • Never put juice in a bottle, try to offer it in a cup only.
  • Use of only 100% fruit juice.
  • No unpasteurized juices should be given to children of any age.

Juice should not be considered a substitute for your child's need for fresh fruit. When compared to fresh fruit, juice lags behind nutritionally. One hundred percent juice does contain some vitamins and minerals, but far less than whole fruit. Whole fruit also contains fiber, which is not present in juice.

If you have a picky eater, pay special attention of the amount juice this child drinks. She may be filling her tummy with juice, leaving no room for healthier foods.

If you think your child drinks too much juice, you can reduce the amount slowly by dilute servings with water.

And remember, water and milk (cow, soy or rice) are healthy drinks for your child.

About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby, creators of products such as homemade baby food kits, baby food cookbooks, baby food and breast milk storage trays, breastfeeding reminders, and child development diaries. Visit them online and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy eating habits!

Reviewed and edited by Vincent Iannelli, MD.

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