Oops, children should not be drinking juice after all

July 13, 2017

The negative effects of fruit juice in young children

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a policy emphasizing the importance of serving whole fruits over fruit juice, especially to children under six months. While the statement suggests incrementally increasing fruit juice intake once the child turns one, many pediatricians discourage children’s consumption of fruit juice entirely. What’s the reason behind this? Besides leading to dental cavities, the sugar that fruit juice contains can also lead to childhood obesity and other metabolic diseases. But that’s not all. Let’s take a look at some other reasons why you might want to consider permanently banishing fruit juice from your household.

Fruit juice contains more sugar than the fruit itself. Drinking fruit juice can spike blood sugar levels higher and faster than eating fruit, which is why some children tend to experience a sugar “crash” after drinking. One cup of orange juice can contain up to 21 grams of sugar. And while an orange contains sugar as well, it also has fiber which helps with metabolism. If we explore further, an eight-ounce glass of apple juice can contain up to 112 calories and almost 20 grams of sugar – almost twice the number of calories and sugar and only one-tenth of the fiber found in an apple. According to Uma Pisharody, M.D., Pediatric Gastroenterologist, Swedish Pediatric Specialty Care, “There is simply no routine need for any child to be drinking juice regularly. ‘Eat the fruit, don't drink it’ is something I frequently tell my patients.”

Sippy cups can lead to tooth decay. Sucking on a beverage with high amounts of sugar can deposit the sugars and acids on your child’s teeth, causing cavities and decay. When young children consume juice using a sippy cup, they are more likely to drink more because they are sipping on it throughout the day. Some children even develop a need for the sippy cup, much like a security blanket. Experts recommend getting rid of sippy cups entirely to promote better habits and minimize the chances of your child consuming more juice than necessary. 

Water and milk are what children need. Water is an excellent choice for children because it contains no sugar or calories and hydrates the body. The AAP recommends that both water and milk are sufficient fluids for children after weaning, and most pediatricians will say the same for more mature children. If your child isn’t a fan of regular cow’s milk or is lactose intolerant, you can try substituting your dairy for almond, coconut and soy milk. Most of the time, these options are fortified with beneficial vitamins and calcium although they may lack the protein you would get in traditional cow’s milk.

If you are a juice drinking household, you may want to consider slowly swapping out juice for water with thinly sliced fruit. Strawberries, peaches, and oranges add flavor without being overwhelmingly sugary. Solutions for phasing out the use of a sippy cup can be slowly decreasing the number of times you offer it to your child, switching up the cups you use to serve and occasionally swapping the juice for water or milk until your child is ready for a more permanent switch.

What other tips do you have for weaning your child off juice or other sugary items? Do you agree with the AAP on their juice policy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!