Is it Okay to Give My Child Juice?

In my opinion, the best approach is to not offer juice – or any sugary drink for that matter – to your children. There is a huge correlation between weight gain in children and the amount of sugary beverages they’re consuming, including juice.

Sure, it’s okay to give your child juice on a special occasion, but I think it’s best to not make a daily habit of it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no juice in the baby’s first year, no more than four to six ounces per day for kids ages 1 to 6, and for older kids a limit of eight to 12 oz. daily. But in my mind, even those amounts seem too generous.

Overall, children across the country are eating and drinking too much sugar and eliminating juice is one of the easiest ways to reduce it.

Increased sugar consumption is one of the root causes of childhood obesity that leads to a host of physical ailments, including type 2 diabetes, which is at epidemic levels in the U.S.

Even juices with “no sugar added” contain “empty calories.” Excess juice intake can lead to diarrhea, poor nutrition and tooth decay. That last one surprises many parents, but based on the kids we see in doctor’s offices, juice is a significant factor in the poor health of kids’ teeth.

Clever marketing has led some parents to think beverages for kids are healthier than they actually are. It is important to remember that eating actual fruit is so much better than drinking juice.

The juice itself typically doesn’t contain the fiber and other nutrients that you get from eating the fruit.

And while we’re on the topic of beverages for kids, ideally they should drink 20 oz. of milk a day and everything else should be water. Drinking more than 20 oz. of milk a day can often lead to kids feeling full and not wanting to eat their regular diet which can lead to nutritional issues.

Furthermore, the iron that is in milk is poorly absorbed by the body so drinking too much milk can actually lead to an iron deficiency anemia. We recommend parents provide whole milk for children from ages 1-2 years and then skim or one-percent milk after that.

Beverage choices available to children can be a tricky landscape of sugar, empty calories, and super-sized portions, so it’s always best to discuss the issue with your pediatrician for guidance.

Nick DeBlasio, MD

About the Author: Nick DeBlasio, MD

Nick DeBlasio, MD, is a pediatrician in the Division of General and Community Pediatrics. His areas of interest include medical education and primary care of underserved children. He is an attending physician at the Pediatric Primary Care Center.

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