No Fruit Juice for Toddlers Under Age 1, Guidelines Say

The American Academy of Pediatrics now suggests that children under the age of 12 months should not have any fruit juice, period. Here’s why and what to do.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy statement saying that children under the age of 12 months (one year) should not drink any fruit juice, as it provides no nutritional value to babies.

The new policy marks the first change to fruit juice recommendations since 2001. Previously, the AAP recommended that children under 6 months of age not drink any fruit juice. The expanded timeframe to 12 months is in response to the rising rates of childhood obesity and dental issues based on evidence over the past few years.

“I definitely agree with this recommendation, and it’s long overdue,” says Robert McGahey, M.D. of Lakeview Pediatrics in Macomb Township and a member of the AAP. “Our practice has always recommended limiting fruit juice consumption.”

McGahey notes that fruit juices often have nearly double the amount of sugar of the actual fruits themselves, with very little of the fiber.

“You’re getting all of the sugar, but you’re still feeling hungry because the fiber is not there to make you feel full,” he says.

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He also adds that many fruit juices have as much sugar as a can of soda, which can be bad for kids’ teeth.

“We consider all kids at risk for cavities and dental issues,” says McGahey, “so we advise doing your best to stay away from these drinks altogether.”

Of the total recommended two cups (16 ounces) of fruit per day, the AAP recommends that toddlers ages 1-3 drink no more than 4 ounces of fruit juice per day, kids 4-6 drink no more than 6 ounces daily, and 7-18-year-olds drink no more than 8 ounces or one cup per day.

“Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories,” says statement co-author Melvin B. Heyman, M.D., in an AAP press release about the new policy. “Small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under 1 (year old).”

The AAP also issues the following recommendations:

  • Toddlers should not be given fruit juice in sippy cups or other easy-access cups because sucking on and drinking the juice all day can have lasting effect on kids’ teeth. They also should not be given juice at bedtime.
  • Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits and be taught the benefits of whole fruits compared to fruit juices.
  • Human milk or infant formula is sufficient for infants, and low-fat or nonfat milk and water are sufficient for all older children.
  • Unpasteurized juice consumption should be discouraged for all ages.
  • Certain forms of medication may be affected by grapefruit juice (see prescription label).
  • Fruit juice is not appropriate to treat dehydration.

“We know that excessive fruit juice can lead to excessive weight gain and tooth decay,” co-author Steven A. Abrams, M.D., notes in the press release. “Pediatricians have a lot of information to share with families on how to provide the proper balance of fresh fruit within their child’s diet.”

Do you let your children drink fruit juice? Tell us in the comments.

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