Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit to children under age 1 and should not be included in their diet, according to a new policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Human milk and infant formula, if breastfeeding isn’t done should be the only source of nutrition for infants until about 6 months of age.
“There is no nutritional indication to give fruit juice to infants younger than 6 months,” the authors write, noting that if a baby fills up on juice it could sideline other important nutrients they need for healthy growth, including the protein, fat, calcium and iron that come in breast milk and formula. They warn that drinking too much juice early in life can even stunt a child’s growth.
After 6 months, parents can introduce fruit, but not in the form of juice. Instead, offer infants ready for solid foods whole fruits that have been mashed or pureed.
After the first year, no more than 4 ounces of juice a day is recommended for children ages 1-3; no more than 6 ounces for ages 4-6 and 8 ounces for ages 7-18.
“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,” said co-author of the statement Melvin Heyman, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP).
“Small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under 1,” Heyman said.
“We know that excessive fruit juice can lead to excessive weight gain and tooth decay,” co-author of the statement Steven Abrams, FAAP, said.
When we substitute juice for fruit, at home or at school, we’re cheating children out of the healthful diet they need to thrive in the name of convenience and consumerism. Fruit juice is not fruit and we’ve been fooling ourselves for too long.
The recommendations are published in the journal Pediatrics.