3:29 PM EST, February 3, 2012
Fruit juices are popular beverages for toddlers and children today.
While often advertised as healthy options, too much juice can provide them with too many calories and too much sugar. A few consequences of this include excess weight gain and dental caries (cavities).
Let's compare whole fruit to fruit juice. Whole fruit has many beneficial health benefits such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It also has cancer fighting antioxidants. We know whole fruit contains some sugar, but just how much?
Most fruits range from 7 to 17 grams of sugar depending on which you choose. This is around 3 to 5 teaspoons. In comparison, fruit juice contains water, sugar and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Unless it has pulp, no fiber benefit is provided.
As far as sugar goes, juices can contain upwards of 30 grams of sugar per serving, or around 10 teaspoons. As you can see, the health benefits of whole fruit certainly outweigh the health benefits of juice.
That being said, juice can be a healthy component of toddlers and children's diets if moderation is used. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 4 to 6 ounces of juice per day from ages 1 to 6 years and two 6-ounce servings per day for children ages 7 to 18.
Portion size is key — be aware of how much your child's cups actually hold to ensure you aren't providing too much. The AAP also encourages that juice be offered as part of a meal rather than something to sip on throughout the day.
When is it appropriate to introduce juice? The AAP policy statement on juice states that it is not necessary to provide juice prior to 6 months of age. They also recommend juice not be introduced before solid foods.
Giving juice to an infant could replace valuable nutrition from breast milk or formula and also begin a long -term preference for sweets. The AAP recommends that toddlers be given juice when they are old enough to drink from a cup and have already been introduced to solid foods. Providing it in a bottle can promote dental caries (cavities).
You might ask "What are the best types of juice to buy?" Any walk down the juice aisle can be overwhelming as there are so many options. A few key points to look for when shopping:
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