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Is It Safe to Give Your Child Fruit Juice?
  /   Dr. John Snow

Is It Safe to Give Your Child Fruit Juice?

Fruit juice is often marketed with a health halo. It seems like a better idea than drinks like soda or packets that you mix yourself with water and sugar.

The pictures of fruit on the label and the number “100%” or “added vitamin C” in various places all over the bottle are designed to send the message that fruit juice is something you should be serving your youngster. But not so fast.

Most fruit juice isn’t exactly what it seems. Before you pour your kids a glass, here’s what you should know.

What Are the Health Benefits of Fruit?

Fruit is an excellent and necessary part of a healthy diet. Each fruit has a unique profile with nutritional benefits, boasting different vitamins and minerals. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, apples are high in vitamin A, and bananas are high in potassium.

Most fruits are high in dietary fiber, which plays an essential role in digestion.

Since fruits are naturally sweet, many people enjoy digging into fruit-based snacks. Many children wouldn’t gravitate towards vegetable juice like tomato juice, but fruit drinks are always easy to serve up when you’re on the go.

How Much Fruit Should Children Have a Day?

Toddlers should have about one cup of fruit a day, and children four years of age or older should have up to 1 ½ cups of fruit a day. Encourage your child to gravitate towards more fruit instead of a potentially unhealthy snack. Fruit will do more to support their bodies than french fries or potato chips.

It might be challenging to think of fruit servings in cups when you have an older child. You have to cut fruit into small pieces for toddlers, which helps it fit easily into a measuring cup.

Smaller fruits, like blueberries, can be poured directly into a cup to gauge an approximate serving size. So what fruits should you introduce your child to? We recommend:

  • Cranberry juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Cherry juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Mango juice
  • Watermelon slices
  • Beetroot juice
  • Kiwi juice
  • Lime juice
  • Acai bowls

Many parents don’t have time to measure fruits before giving them to their children. A good rule of thumb is to assume one serving size of a large fruit is ½ cup of fresh fruit or one cup of fruit juice. For instance, a medium-sized apple or orange is a standard serving of fruit.

What’s the Difference Between Fruit Juice and Juice Drinks?

Many parents miss the point here, and it isn’t necessarily their fault. Juice drinks or fruit drinks are often deliberately deceptively marketed to appear the same as fruit juices.

Companies choose packages designed to make these drinks look upscale and healthier, depicting fruit on the label. If you read the fine print and check the nutrition facts, you’ll notice that these things are “juice cocktails” or that the disclaimer says “contains X% juice.”

These fruity drinks are almost the same as decaffeinated soda most of the time. They contain just as much sugar and often numerous artificial ingredients. The “health halo” used to advertise them leads you to believe that these drinks are somehow different when they can be equally detrimental to your child’s health.

Like sugar and candy, these drinks add empty calories to your child’s diet and may contribute to tooth decay. These drinks are blended and diluted with water and often include added sugar. You should consider them “junk food” and keep them off the table.

Unless the product specifies that it is pure 100% fruit juice, it isn’t 100% fruit juice. You should always check the ingredients list and nutrition facts before purchasing juice for your family to ensure that you’re getting juice and not just glorified fruit punch.

Real fruit juice will only contain naturally-occurring sugars from the fruit. It might be cloudy or less appetizing in color due to its nature. Pure apple juice will be a deep amber color, with unfiltered varieties appearing an opaque sandy color through the bottle.

Natural grape juice will appear nearly black due to the concentrated natural pigments of the grape, and orange juice will be an opaque sunny yellow-orange color and will sometimes have visible pulp.

What Age Can Toddlers Start Having Juice?

Although it is technically safe to begin introducing juice to babies as young as six months, most pediatricians recommend against it. Babies have small stomach capacities, requiring a wealth of calories and nutrients to grow and thrive.

Juice would fill a baby up without providing them with the things they need from breast milk or formula.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend the use of juice, even 100% juice, in a young child’s diet. While it isn’t dangerous, it simply isn’t as nutritionally beneficial as whole fruit for its caloric content.

  • One year to three years -- About 4 ounces (half a suggested serving size) of fruit juice daily
  • Four years to five years -- 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day

Since the recommended serving sizes of fruit juice are so small, and the acidity of juice may upset tiny tummies, most parents dilute a small splash of juice with filtered water to fill a sippy cup and effectively create fruit-infused water.

If adding a small splash of 100% juice gets your child more interested in drinking a sufficient amount of water, it’s probably a good move.

Most pediatricians recommend drinks like plain filtered water and low-fat milk (or unsweetened plant milk for children with intolerances or allergies).

Older children can enjoy variety by incorporating unsweetened coconut water, healthy fruit, green smoothies as snacks, unsweetened caffeine-free herbal tea, and naturally essenced sparkling water.

Why Are Whole Fruits and a Glass of Water Better?

Fruit juices contain the water from within a fruit, infused with some natural flavor and some of the water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Unfiltered juices or juices with pulp will retain more of the actual fruit, which is the real nutritional powerhouse.

Juice is like incomplete fruit. It doesn’t contain all the fiber and nutrients and isn’t filling. When you eat whole fruit, especially if the fruit is served raw, you’re taking in every valuable bit of nutrition that the fruit has to offer. It’s better to get your nutrition from whole fruit with a glass of water on the side.

This helps the fruit become a healthy snack or part of a regular meal rather than a normal drink. Your child can satisfy their hunger with something beneficial rather than drink calories that don’t provide optimal nutritional value.

This is especially true if something like whole fruit with nut butter is replacing a potentially unhealthy snack, like a sugar-laden granola bar or artificially flavored cheese puffs.

What if My Picky Eater Refuses To Eat Fruit?

Most picky eaters are more likely to enjoy fruits than vegetables, as fruits are sweet. Choose fruits that your child likes and begin gradually incorporating new fruits. If you usually top your child’s oatmeal or low-fat yogurt with strawberries, try adding a sliced banana. Then, add a few blueberries.

It’s important not to hide the fruit or trick your child into eating it. Your child must understand the benefits of eating fruit in a healthy diet. Rather than forcing them to eat fruit, lead by example and slowly incorporate new fruits into their meals.

You might have to accept that there are a few fruits or berries your child won’t like. Your child doesn’t need to pick cranberries or cherries or eat most other fruits you serve. Stick with the fruits that give you at least marginal success at the kitchen table.

Hiya Helps Your Child Fill In the Gaps

It can be difficult to help picky eaters get an adequate amount of fruit without adding sugar. You shouldn’t give in to the added sugar. You should keep providing your child with real whole fruits and slowly allow them to acclimate to healthier choices.

If you’re concerned about your picky eater’s habits, you should always talk to your child’s pediatrician. Your pediatrician may recommend incorporating certain foods into your child’s diet.

They may also recommend supplementing your child’s diet with a multivitamin while learning to stop playing with their pomegranate and start eating it.

Hiya is here to help fill in the gaps. Our once daily children’s chewable multivitamin doesn’t contain any added sugar or gummy junk. It’s naturally sweetened with monk fruit and includesnaturally flavored with an organic fruit and vegetable blend.

Kids love the way it tastes, and parents love how it helps their little picky eaters meet their nutritional goals.

Sources:

Fruit juice: Good or bad for kids? | Mayo Clinic

Fruit and Vegetable Servings | Children's Hospital Colorado

When Can My Baby Start Drinking Juice? (for Parents) | Nemours KidsHealth

FIBER IN FOODS CHART | Michigan Medicine | CS Mott Children's Hospital

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