We understand that juice is sweet, refreshing, tastes great, and that your child loves it. We also understand that knowing what to give your child to drink has never been more confusing. Sure, your child no doubt prefers sweet, tasty juice to drink…and many fruit juices are fortified with vitamin C. But are they healthy? Should you offer juice as a beverage during mealtimes?
Read on for dietitian Kelly Stellato’s recommendations!
Juice Abuse: A Dietitian Answers Common Juice-Related Questions
“???Wait a minute…isn’t juice healthy? After all, it come from fruit, and fruit is healthy.”
This is a common question. The answer is that juice can be healthy, in moderation. Most fruit juice contains no fat, fiber, or vitamins (with the exception of vitamin C). So, when you give your child 2 or more cups a day, you are essentially giving him a lot of sugar and calories. The calories in juice are what we nutritionists call “empty calories”. This means that the calories are not providing valuable nutrients and are also not filling your child up.
“How much juice is healthy, and how much is too much?”
After your child is a year old, if you offer juice, you should give no more than 4 oz. of juice for an entire day (not just per meal!). When you give your child more than that, the extra sugar and calories will really add up. All fruit contains sugar, so even if you are making your own juice, you can’t escape the fact that it will be high in sugar. More than 4 oz. of any juice per day is too much.
“My child loves juice, though – it’s all she wants to drink!”
I understand your child loves juice but, that doesn’t mean you need to give it to her every time she asks. You are the care giver. It is your responsibility to provide what is best for your child, even if that is not what she wantws. Giving your child too much juice can result in stomachaches and diarrhea; this is the result of over consumption of a specific type of sugar commonly found in juice. In addition, fruit juice is acidic. This can damage tooth enamel and cause decay. Even if you are providing homemade or sugar-reduced juice, tooth damage can result from over consumption. Finally, be aware that offering sugary drinks – including juice – can increase your child’s risk of becoming overweight or obese.
So, when your child asks for a second cup of juice for the day, a healthier choice would be to give them a piece of fruit instead. Whole fruits, while they do contain sugar, also contain fiber and nutrients, which makes them a much better source of nutrition.
“So, if juice should be limited…what should I be giving my child to drink?”
Well, breastmilk or formula should be your child’s primary source of nutrition, and it provides all the liquid your child needs. You can offer water after your child is 7 or 8 months old, but offer that sparingly. After your child is 12 months old, it’s best to offer whole milk and water.
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