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Take Away the Juice, Pediatricians Say

May 22, 2017

Fruit juice has been marketed (and in some cases, recommended by physicians) as a healthy, natural source of vitamins and calcium. Kids like the way it tastes — in fact, children and adolescents continue to be the highest consumers of fruit juice and juice drinks.

But there is no reason to include them in the diets of children less than a year old, the American Academy of Pediatrics now says.

Steven Abrams, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, co-authored the policy statement, released today. It also recommends limited consumption for older children and adolescents.

We have to take a step back and realize that there are harmful consequences to children consuming large amounts of juice.

Steven Abrams, M.D.

“Water and low-fat milk are much better choices for most children,” Abrams says.“We have to take a step back and realize that there are harmful consequences to children consuming large amounts of juice.”

Fruit juice, defined separately from fruit-flavored and other juice drinks not made from 100 percent fruit, lacks the dietary fiber of whole fruits. Since juice can be consumed more quickly than whole fruit, a child who sips fruit juice throughout the day may fall into a pattern of consuming excessive sugar and calories and experience weight gain later in life.

For a Flexible Fruit Choice, Proceed With Caution

The concerns are fewer for older children and adolescents. In small amounts, 100 percent fruit juice may even be a good way to increase fruit intake, particularly as a child’s caloric needs increase with age.

Since juice has a longer shelf life and is easily transportable, it offers a flexible option for families who may not be able to provide whole fruits to meet 100 percent of a child’s recommended daily intake. Even still, juice should be limited to half of a child’s daily fruit consumption — two 4- to 6-ounce servings is more than adequate.

“At the end of the day, it’s about instilling good eating habits in kids,” Abrams said. “Establishing a healthy, balanced diet early in life is one of the best ways to ensure that kids grow up healthy and stay healthy as adults.”

About Dr. Abrams

Abrams is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and served as the only pediatrician on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which issued its latest report in 2015. He co-authored the statement with Melvin Heyman, M.D., professor and director of the Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at the University of California, San Francisco.

Need to Know

  • Fruit juice should not be offered to children less than a year old, and should be consumed by older children only in limited amounts. Fruit juice should not be used to treat dehydration or constipation.
  • Pediatricians should continue to recommend the consumption of whole fruits, especially for children who have already been exposed to fruit juice, and should advocate for the elimination of fruit juice in young children’s diets.
  • A complete ban on fruit juice through government programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), is not necessary or beneficial. But physicians should advocate for limits on juice and ensure that parents are educated about the risks associated with high juice intake.