Dear Dr. Mo: What’s the verdict on giving juices to kids? Should I offer them to my baby or should I just stick to water?
Dear reader: Your question targets a persistent dilemma parents have and we often discuss this topic with them as family physicians. If you want a short answer, that answer is: you should stick to water.
Having said that, let me break it down a bit further:
Up until recently, we were advising parents and caregivers against juice consumption in infants 6 months and younger. There is simply no nutritional benefit in a juice, it is mostly pure sugar, often times made from concentrates and even if the producers claim it is real fruit inside, the fact of the matter is that the sugar content is just through the roof! Just think about it – if they have to advertise that it’s actually ‘real’ fruit inside, that fact alone can make you cringe.
Now, earlier this year, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has expanded its recommendation against offering juice to all infants 12 months and under – so, if a baby is up to 1 year old, you should stay away from juices completely because there’s just no benefit from them.
Of course, there could be individual exceptions so if a physician determines juice to be medically necessary in infants older than 6 months, it should be given in a cup, not a bottle – so less is more. For example, if a child develops constipation (can’t have a bowel movement easily), we may try some apple juice for its fiber content to help ease the problem – this would be a temporary, short term measure to get things moving along and then more vegetables and fruits should take over to provide the necessary fiber.
Here are a few other poignant recommendations by AAP:
- For toddlers, 100% juice (4 oz. or less) may be offered as part of a snack or meal.
- For children aged 4 through 6 years, consumption should be limited to 6 ounces a day; for those 7 to 18 years, the recommended daily limit is 8 ounces.
- For children with chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, excessive flatulence (i.e. farting), and bloating, clinicians should inquire about juice consumption. (in other words, I would ask you questions about whether or not your child drinks juices and how much as they can cause these uncomfortable symptoms)
- For children with poor or excessive weight gain, clinicians should recommend cutting all juice from the diet.
And finally let me add one more (important) thing.
Your child’s dental health will vastly benefit from sticking to water only (and so will you, trust me!). Constantly bathing teeth in sugary liquid is heaven for cavity-causing bacteria and it creates a perfect environment for them to decay teeth while feasting on loads of sugar from juices a child sips on.
So, save yourself a multitude of nerve-wrecking, bank account-sapping visits to a dentist and just stick to water.
Yours in health,