As your child grows, you’ll witness a lot of firsts. There are also some developments that parents themselves need to initiate. Moving your child from breast milk or formula to other foods and drinks is one of those developments.
It can be tricky for parents to know when to start offering, and how to offer, their child drinks such as juice. There are also many different kinds of juice available, making it difficult to know which one to choose.
Here’s a look at what you should know about introducing your child to fruit juice.
Children don’t need to drink juice, but juice is one way to introduce them to new flavors. It can also provide them with a good dose of vitamin C.
The biggest problem with fruit juice is the amount of sugar it contains.
Even “all-natural” fruit juices contain a lot of sugar. That’s because fruit itself naturally contains sugar. Because of this, it’s best not to give juice to children under a year old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The AAP used to consider it fine for children as young as 6 months to drink juice with their regular meals or snacks. However, they changed their recommendations in 2017.
Vegetable juices may not have as much sugar as fruit juices, but they do contain a lot of salt.
Juice should only be given to children who are able to sit up and drink from a cup. It should never be given in a bottle.
Moreover, your child shouldn’t be allowed to carry juice around with them in their cup to drink throughout the day. That’s because the high amount of sugar can cause damage to their teeth.
Some fruit can be acidic, too. This can also be damaging to the teeth if children drink from a sippy cup filled with juice throughout the day.
The amount of juice you give your child should be low, no more than 4 ounces per day. It’s also best to give juice during a regular mealtime, when they’re eating other foods. This will help to reduce tooth decay.
The best time to give your child juice is when they’re sitting up at a regular mealtime. It should always be given in a cup and taken in a single sitting.
Water it down
It may help to water down the juice a little. Aim for 1 part juice to 10 parts water. At first, your child may have had a very limited introduction to food flavors. The flavor of juices might be a little overwhelming. Start with mostly water and a little juice.
As your child adjusts, you can gradually add a little less water and a little more juice if you want to, but continuing with diluted juice is fine, too. Cutting the juice with water will also cut the calories, sugar, and acid found naturally in fruit juice.
Choose the right cup
To avoid exposure of acid and sugar to your child’s teeth, consider not using sippy cups with juice. It’s better simply to offer diluted juice in an open cup, and supervise your toddler to avoid spills.
There are a lot of different juices and juice drinks in your grocery store aisle. This can make choosing the best one for your child challenging. The most important thing you can do when choosing a juice for your child is to read the label.
Even if a juice claims to be 100 percent real fruit juice, it might contain other ingredients. Read the list of ingredients. The best juices are the ones with the shortest list of ingredients — and ingredients you can pronounce.
Things to look for when choosing juice for your child include:
- 100 percent pure fruit juice
- 100 percent pasteurized
- mild flavors; apple or pear are good ones to start with
- no sugar added
You’ll want to avoid any juices labeled “cocktail,” “drink,” “beverage,” or “-ade.”
If your toddler experiences constipation, 100 percent pure apple, prune, or pear juice may help.
Constipation can sometimes occur when a younger child (under a year old) starts eating solid foods. However, you should contact your baby’s physician if your baby is constipated.
If your baby has problems with constipation before 1 year of age, your pediatrician may still have you give them a small amount of juice.
The doctor will be able to tell you the correct amount and the best method for giving juice to a child under a year old. Discover additional remedies for constipation in babies here.
While fruit juice sounds healthy, it’s not as good as feeding your child the actual fruit. Toddlers need two to three servings of fruit per day. No more than one of these servings should come from juice.
There are some things to be cautious of if you add juice to your child’s diet. Too much juice can cause:
- weight issues
- decreased appetite for nutritious foods
- diaper rash; this is usually caused by citrus
In general, children don’t need to have juice. If you would like to replace one of your child’s daily servings of fruit with fruit juice, be sure to limit the amount that they drink.
It’s also a good idea to talk to their pediatrician before changing their diet, no matter the circumstances. Be sure to follow the pediatrician’s guidelines.
If you’re concerned about the amount of sugar in fruit juice, you can always dilute it with water. This will still give your toddler a new flavor to explore while limiting the calories, sugar, and acid they consume.