Here are key things to know about juice for kids, and how to choose one that will help your kids meet their needs while reducing sugar intake.
Let’s not get it twisted; juice and fruit are not the same. While juice has its place in your child’s lifestyle, it’s no replacement for the real deal. So, get the truth about juice by using the recommendations and tips below.
Juice vs. Fruit for Kids
Unlike juice, fruit is abundant in fiber—a nutrient that helps improve feelings of fullness while contributing to gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and immune health. It also helps keep kids regular, ultimately taking the strain out of the bathroom game.
But unfortunately, juice often omits the fruit’s external skin or seeds—home to much-needed fiber and phytonutrients. Remember, phytonutrients contain powerful antioxidants unique to plant-based foods and help improve overall health and prevent disease.
So, while you don’t need to completely cut all juice from your kiddo’s lifestyle, it should get balanced with whole food options.
When Can a Baby Have Juice?
While juice may feel like a one-stops shop for nutrient-packed hydration, its recommended intake is dependent on your child’s age. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ juice recommendation is that infants under six months of age should stick to human milk or infant formula, keeping juice for the older children.
So, as a general rule of thumb, juice should be avoided until one year of age (unless clinically indicated).
- Specifically, giving juice before solid foods can displace their intake of human milk, putting them at risk of lowered intakes of protein, fat, vitamins, iron, calcium, and zinc.
- Once introduced, fruit juice may be used as part of a meal or snack to help reach your kids’ nutritional (and tastebud) needs.
- Aim to choose fruit over 100% juice whenever possible.
- When offered, juice should not be sipped throughout the day since it can wreak havoc on dental health and may contribute to unneeded weight gain.
When Can Kids Have Juice?
So, the big question is, “how much is too much?” Use the guidelines below to help navigate your child’s juice drinking habits to maximize their growth and development. Remember to double-check convenience items since portions are often much larger than the recommended intake.
- Children 1-3 years old: 4 oz/day, representing half the recommended daily serving of fruit.
- Children 4-6 years old: 4-6 oz/day
- Children 7-18 years old: 8 oz/day
What to Look for When Selecting a Juice Option
The grocery store aisles are getting more saturated with seemingly endless options, making the juice selection process seem endless. But, instead of falling victim to marketing ploys or appealing claims, check out these three tips on how to make the right juice selection for your family.
1. Juice Fortification
If your child doesn’t drink milk or milk substitutes, opt for fortified juice options (they add in the micronutrients). Some brands may fortify their juices with calcium, omega-3, or vitamin D—providing a practical way to reach your family’s nutritional needs.
2. 100% Fruit Juice
While it may feel like semantics, fruit juice and drinks are different. The latter may be heavily diluted with high-fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners, making it an unhealthy option. On the other hand,100% juice gets made strictly from the fruit itself and contains no added sugars.
3. Portion sizes
When looking for an on-the-go option for your kiddo, choose juice boxes or pouches that are an appropriate portion size for your child’s age. Typical “kid-friendly” options range from 4 to 7 oz, depending on the brand. Is your child’s juice box providing more than the recommended quantity?
Healthy Drinks and Juice for Kids
Changing habits is challenging at any age! But you don’t have to completely cut off your child’s juice supply to contribute to better health. Remember, everything in moderation!
So, skip the meal or snack time juice drama and check out these stress-free ways to partially substitute your child’s juice intake.
Juice it yourself. Have your children guess how many oranges, lemons, or apples it will take to make 4 oz. of juice. Then wash the fruit, let them help juice, remove any seeds, and measure.
Juicing it yourself takes effort and will minimize overconsumption. Plus, you can discuss the differences in taste from fresh to pre-bought.
If your child feels less than satisfied with the recommended serving size of juice, simply dilute their go-to option with water. Don’t worry; it will still taste sweet and satisfying for your main squeeze! Talk about an easy way for everyone to win. This can also encourage adequate hydration on those extra hot days.
Is plain ol’ water simply not cutting it for your kiddo? Try infusing it with different fruits or vegetables to add a pop of flavor without the unwanted sugars.
Experiment with frozen berries, fresh cucumber, or mint to create a flavor sensation that satisfies the tastebuds. Feel free to get your child involved in the preparation process for a fun yet healthy activity to do as a family.
Unlike juice, smoothies contain an abundance of fiber from using the whole fruit—providing a nutrient-dense option that helps increase feelings of fullness. Not to mention, smoothies are an easy way to include an array of color-filled ingredients, including vegetables!
Find your child’s favorite fruit or vegetable combination and simply give it a blend with low-fat milk or unsweetened plant-based milk for slurp-worthy nutrition that your child will love!
Next time you’re at the store choosing juice for kids, remember these key tips and ways to make healthy drinks for kids.