As a child of the 1980’s, I thought I was making a healthy choice by drinking a glass of my favorite Five Alive juice for breakfast. Capri Sun or Sunny Delight juice boxes were among my favorites during the hot summer months. Often I felt like my parents were being “mean” because they always purchased the “healthy” juices and would never buy my sister and I Kool-Aid.
As is typical in the medical field, we learn with age. The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) recently revised their recommendations for juice allowance for infants and children. This is the first juice recommendation update they have made in 16 years. As of May 2017, infants less than twelve months old should NOT be given any juice. Juice should be limited to no more than four ounces (1/2 cup) daily for children ages 1-3, no more than 4-6 ounces for children ages 4-6 and no more than 8 ounces (1 cup) for children ages 7-18.
The AAP cites an increase in children with dental cavities, weight gain and reduction of intake of whole foods and their naturally occurring nutrients as reasons why to limit consumption of juice. The AAP also states that juice provides NO nutritional benefit to children of any age.
Infants (newborn to age 12 months) should ONLY be given breast milk, formula or water, if recommended by their Pediatrician, to meet water intake needs. Infants’ Diarrhea is a medical problem that many infants face when their parents give them too much juice. First line therapy from a pediatrician is often to remove all juice from the babies’ diet. The only time juice should be given to a baby is IF that child’s pediatrician recommends it for short-term use, often for constipation. IF juice is recommended to your infant, it should only be given in a transitional beginner’s drinking cup, not a bottle. It should not be sipped all day. Juice plays a large part in dental cavities in children, which can begin during infancy. The AAP states that specialty juices marketed to infants are overpriced and not necessary.
Many dietary habits are developed in children ages 1-3 years old. Introduction of unprocessed, whole foods is of the most importance during these ages. If the first foods children rely on are juices and ultra puréed and processed foods, children then have a hard time accepting the different textures and flavors found in whole foods. Juice provides no fiber and also lacks the natural phytonutrients found in the skin of whole fruits and vegetables. Just as with adults, lack of proper nutrition, or malnutrition, is the biggest contributing factor to obesity in children.
As a child who suffered from lots of cavities (I think I missed the memo from my parents on the benefits of brushing my teeth) and now has anxiety issues at the dentist, I CLEARLY understand the benefits of preventing the problem in my own children. Dental health, whether in children or adults, is a large indicator of health. Juice, even diluted, and healthy gummy snacks made of juice are easily lodged between teeth causing cavities. Again AAP states these products are overpriced and contain NO nutritional benefits.
The impact and importance of these recommendations will soon be felt in government programs like WIC (Women Infants and Children) by helping change guidelines from giving juice to giving whole fruits and vegetables.
There is certainly no reason to panic if your child enjoys some apple or orange juice on occasion. Try to instill healthy habits like making water your child’s beverage of choice. If you or your child prefers a little extra flavor (and vitamin C) think of adding fresh lemon, orange or strawberry slices to your water.
Unfortunately in 2017 fruit juice is not the only unhealthy beverage making it’s way into the mouths of our children, young adults and older adults. Sports drinks, energy drinks and sofa pop are still adapting their marketing strategies to make their products look healthy. Juices are now sold and marketed using new and trendy phrases including fresh squeezed and cold-pressed. None of these phrases are regulated and have no medical research to back up their claims. Juice is juice. There is no comparison whether measuring cost, nutrition or satiety; real food always wins.
Children are the future and amazing creatures at that. Childhood is when the rate of growth is the fastest and some life-altering and life-long habits are created. Throughout my life, career and especially the last two years as a mother, I have learned the best thing I can do for myself, my child and my family is to “keep it simple.” We tend to get ourselves into trouble when we overthink or try and improve things that are perfect the way they are. Eat the apple. “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid (or the juice)”.
If you are interested in discussing your health, diet and how you could improve both, I encourage you to call the Couri Center and schedule a free consultation to learn more about the programs we offer.
Leslie Rusch-Bayer, RD, LDN, CPT