Parents of toddlers have been thirsty to ask me whether all that juice their child drinks can be harmful to their growth. Let me quench some of your curiosity about juice drinking and provide some information on the topic.
There have only been a few studies on excessive juice drinking and growth, some of which suggest that children who drink more than 12 ounces daily are more likely to be shorter or more overweight than those who consume less than 12 ounces each day. These studies do not necessarily prove that juice is the cause of the weight gain and decreased height. Instead, they suggest that it is associated with the problem. They also suggest that filling up with juice may prevent your child from getting the proper nutrition they need to build up their muscles, decrease fat, and improve growth.
In addition, there are dental studies that say that excess fruit juice may also provide too much fluoride to your child, making their teeth develop unattractive white or brown spots.
Based on data from such studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised their recommendations. Based on those recommendations, I have some suggestions:
- Don’t even introduce your child to juice until they are at least 1 year of age. Once you do, limit the amount they drink to 4 ounces a day for toddlers, ideally served in a cup and not a bottle. Provide 4-6 ounces for children ages 4-6 and no more than 8 ounces for children ages 7-18 years.
- As an alternative, consider offering fresh cut-up whole fruit.
- Make sure the juice you use is pure, pasteurized fruit juice. Choose juice with pulp, which adds fiber. And remember that breastmilk or formula for infants – and low-fat/nonfat milk and water for children – are fine for meeting fluid requirements.
- Don’t let your young child fall asleep while sipping on juice from a cup or bottle. Having it sit up against the teeth can cause serious tooth decay.
- You can be good role models by also drinking water, so your children will follow suit.
Hopefully tips like this will juice you up when it comes to reducing the amount of juice in your child’s daily diet.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.