Fruit Juice: Your Friend or Foe?

Many people think that fruit juice is a healthy drink that can contribute to the recommended servings of fruit per day. However, nutritionally speaking, it doesn’t compare to the nutritional value of eating a piece of whole fruit. Though fruit juice is considered part of the fruit group, 100% juice is not a suitable recommendation for children. Most recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that parents need to cut back on how much juice is given to their infants, toddlers, young children, and even older children.

The problem with fruit juice:


Because juice is marketed as “healthy,” parents often replace whole fresh fruit with juice. Children readily accept fruit juice because it tastes good. Why do you think children (and some of us adults) like the taste of fruit juice? Sugar! It is no doubt that sweet = sugar. The high sugar content in juice contributes to poor nutrition, obesity, and tooth decay. Poor dental hygiene and the high concentration of sugar in juice builds the perfect environment for bacteria to eat away at tooth enamel. On top of that, lack of protein and increased calorie consumption can lead to inappropriate weight gain in children.


The difference between fruit juice and whole fruit:


The major difference between fruit juice and whole fruit is the lack of fiber and high sugar content in juice. Whole fruits provide fiber by way of the skin and pulp, which is an important part of a healthy diet and helps satisfy hunger. What’s more, whole fruits provide essential vitamins and minerals that are reduced or lost in fruit juices. Fruit juices on the other hand often have added flavors, food coloring or other additives. In addition, to having high sugar content and lack of fiber.


How much juice should I give my child?


American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for young children:

  • Infants 12 months or younger should NOT be introduced to juice into their diet unless clinically indicated.

  • 1 to 3 years of age: limit 4 oz/day (½ cup)

  • 4 to 6 years of age: 4 to 6 oz/day (½-⅔ cup)

  • Choose whole fruit instead of juice when you can.

The truth is, an appropriate amount of juice is healthy, but too much juice in the child’s diet can contribute to serious health problems. It can be a small part of their diet, but it should not be used to replace whole fruits or vegetables. The AAP recommends parents should focus on offering whole fruit or water instead of fruit juice because of the lack of fiber and high sugar content in juice.


Along with the given guidelines, the AAP released a new video to help explain the daily recommendations to families. Again, it is okay for children older than age 1 to drink juice in small amounts. But whole fruit and plain water are better choices.


About the Author: Bianca Salgado is a dietetic student and intern currently earning her degree in nutrition science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Sources:

  1. Medicine, Good Food Is Good. Is fruit juice bad for you and your children? good-food Web site. https://health.ucdavis.edu/blog/good-food/is-fruit-juice-bad-for-you-and-your-children/2019/07. Accessed Jun 6, 2021.

  2. Fruit juice and your child's diet. HealthyChildren.org Web site. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Fruit-Juice-and-Your-Childs-Diet.aspx. Accessed Jun 6, 2021.

  3. Davis JL. Kids are getting too much fruit juice. WebMD Web site. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20010507/kids-are-getting-too-much-fruit-juice. Accessed Jun 6, 2021.

  4. Fruit Juice in Infants, Children, and Adolescents: Current Recommendations. pediatrics.aappublications.org Web site. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/05/18/peds.2017-0967#:~:text=The%20intake%20of%20juice%20should,of%20fruit%20servings%20per%20day. Accessed Jun 6, 2021.