AUSTIN, Texas — Fruit juice has been marketed (and in some cases, recommended by physicians) as a healthy, natural source of vitamins and calcium. Kids like the way it tastes — in fact, children and adolescents continue to be the highest consumers of fruit juice and juice drinks.
But there is no reason to include them in the diets of children less than a year old, the American Academy of Pediatrics now says.
Steven Abrams, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, co-authored the policy statement, released today. It also recommends limited consumption for older children and adolescents.
“There’s never been a question that whole fruits are the best choice for children — adults, too, for that matter,” Abrams says. “On the other hand, water and low fat milk are much better choices for most children. We just have to take a step back and realize that there are harmful consequences to consuming large amounts of juice by children.”
Fruit juice, defined separately from fruit-flavored and other juice drinks not made from 100 percent fruit, lacks the dietary fiber of whole fruits. Since juice can be consumed more quickly than whole fruit, a child who sips fruit juice throughout the day may fall into a pattern of consuming excessive sugar and calories and experience weight gain later in life.
For a Flexible Fruit Choice, Proceed With Caution
The concerns are fewer for older children and adolescents. In small amounts, 100 percent fruit juice may even be a good way to increase fruit intake, particularly as a child’s caloric needs increase with age.
Since juice has a longer shelf life and is easily transportable, it offers a flexible option for families who may not be able to provide whole fruits to meet 100 percent of a child’s recommended daily intake. Even still, juice should be limited to half of a child’s daily fruit consumption — two 4- to 6-ounce servings is more than adequate.
“At the end of the day, it’s about instilling good eating habits in kids,” Abrams said. “Establishing a healthy, balanced diet early in life is one of the best ways to ensure that kids grow up healthy and stay healthy as adults.”
A longer version of this story is on the Dell Medical School’s REthink website.