Healthy Habits: Juice and Kids

It may surprise you to hear that overconsumption of juice can contribute to obesity. A recent study of small children found that those who consumed more than 12 ounces a day were more overweight than other children. While this study is not conclusive evidence, it is worthy of mention.

It is not uncommon for children to want to drink juice all day long. For children, juice can be a refreshing drink, but drinking too much is not good. Along with a potential link to obesity, juice can replace healthier foods, cause diarrhea, and promote tooth decay.

One-hundred percent fruit juice in moderate servings can be perfectly fine for your child. Keep in mind that most recommendations about juice are actually limits, though, and you usually don’t have to give your child any juice at all.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has made the following recommendations about juice:

* Children under 6 years old should not drink more than 4–6 ounces of juice per day.
* Older children, 7–18 years old, can drink 8 to 12 ounces of 100% juice each day.
* Juice should not be introduced until your infant is about 6 months old.
* Use only 100% fruit juice.
* No unpasteurized juices should be given to children of any age.

Juice should not be considered a substitute for your child’s need for fresh fruit. When compared to fresh fruit, juice lags behind nutritionally. One-hundred percent juice does contain some vitamins and minerals, but far less than whole fruit. Whole fruit also contains fiber, which is not present in juice.

If you have a picky eater, pay special attention to the amount juice this child drinks. He or she may be filling up with juice, leaving no room for healthier foods.

If you think your child may be drinking too much juice, you can reduce the amount slowly by diluting servings with water.

And remember, water and milk (cow, soy, or rice) are healthy drinks for your child.

Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Visit them at and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter. Fresh Baby Baby Food Kits and other products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets.