Like milk, juice for kids is synonymous with childhood. We pack juice boxes for preschool, serve juice at birthday parties and some kids drink juice at every meal, all day, every day.
Juice seems like something your kids should drink. It’s made with fruit, so it must be healthy, right?
Juice does have some vitamins and minerals, but there are so many reasons why juice for kids isn’t healthy and kids shouldn’t drink it.
Why Kids Don’t Need Juice
If your kids are picky eaters, you probably worry about their diets and if they’re getting enough nutrients.
Depending on what they eat or don’t eat, it’s possible they could have some nutritional deficiencies. Yet if they eat fruit they’re probably getting the same vitamins and minerals that juice has and much more.
The recommended amount of fruit children should consume each day varies between 1 and 2 cups depending on a child’s age and gender. You can find specifics on ChooseMyPlate.gov. If you continue to offer a variety of fresh fruits and at every meal and snack, your kids will ask for fruit and hitting those targets isn’t all that difficult.
For kids who don’t have access to fresh fruit, such as those that live in food deserts, for example, juice can be a way to help them get servings of fruit. Some types of juices are a good source of vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and magnesium and some brands of juice may also be fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Juice Is High In Sugar
Sugar seems wholesome but read the labels and you’ll be amazed at how high the sugar content is. A 3.5 ounce cup of apple juice—about one serving for kids—has 9 grams of sugar. It’s sugar that kids who are likely getting sugar from other sources like yogurt and cereal don’t need.
The American Heart Association says kids under 2 shouldn’t consumer any sugar and those between 2 and 12 should consume no more than 25 grams—or 6 teaspoons worth of added sugar a day.
But if you look at most juice boxes, they contain “fruit juice from concentrate” which is actually added sugar. And even if the label says 100 percent fruit juice, it can still be made with fruit juice from concentrate.
Yet it doesn’t matter whether it’s natural sugar like fructose from fruit or added sugar. All sugar is the same and our bodies don’t know the difference. “Though natural sugar may seem harmless, your body does little to distinguish between the sugars in an apple versus those in a piece of candy,” Scott Kahan, the director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. told Time.com.
Since more fruit is needed to make fruit juice, there’s more calories, sugar and carbohydrates in juice than there is in whole fruit. Juice also strips fruit of its fiber, not a good thing for kids who don’t eat enough fiber to begin with.
Of course, allow your kids to drink juice regularly and chances are they’ll only want juice, sugary drinks and sweet foods.
Although a recent study found 100 percent fruit juice doesn’t spike blood sugar, experts raise important concerns and question the credibility of the study which, by the way, was funded by the Juice Products Association.
If the American Diabetes Association (ADA) says people with type-2 diabetes should limit juice consumption, then it’s fair to say for kids who are already overweight or have a family history of type-2 diabetes, drinking juice isn’t going to help their risk for developing the condition.
Drinking too much juice can also lead to cavities, weight gain or diarrhea in babies and toddlers.
When Can Kids Drink Juice?
In May 2017, the AAP issued new guidelines for fruit juice in kids’ diets. While the previous guidelines were 6 months of age, the AAP now says kids under age 1 shouldn’t drink juice.
For toddlers between 1 and 3, they say juice should be limited to 4 ounces a day; children ages 4-6 should have no more than 4 to 6 ounces; and children ages 7-18 should limit juice to 8 ounces.
Is Homemade Juicing Good For Kids?
Making your own juices at home is a great way to get in a bunch of vegetables and fruits into your kid’s diet.
While juice shouldn’t replace whole fruits and vegetables or be a way to sneak them into the diet, offering your kid fresh, homemade juices can give him a boost of nutrition and fill in some gaps.
When making homemade juices, follow the 80/20 rule: 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent juice.
If you do serve your kids juice, don’t serve juice in a bottle, only a cup.
Homemade juicing is also a great opportunity to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables and teach kids how to make healthy juices.
Reserve store-bought juice as a treat: at a birthday party or during the holidays.
Do you give your kids juice? Do you make green juices at home? Let me know what you think in the comments section!