Many parents turn to a delicious cup of juice in the morning or a fruit smoothie after school to provide their kids with a nutritional boost. 100% fruit juice actually can be an excellent source of powerful antioxidants and vitamins. It can help boost your child’s immune system and promote bone growth.
However, many juices and other flavored drinks contain a large amount of sugar, which can lead to poor dental hygiene and unhealthy weight gain. As a pediatrician, I see more and more children with horrible cavities and poor dentition.
In addition, childhood obesity continues to rise in this country, not only leading to an increase in cases of type 2 diabetes but also with earlier age of onset and diagnosis than in years past.
So what is the answer? Should we avoid juices and flavored drinks all together?
As a pediatrician, I can’t stress enough the importance of establishing healthy patterns in early childhood to prevent future health issues, such as dental cavities or diet-related diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes. I feel honored to join Healthy Eating’s mission to educate parents on the newest guidelines for all beverages for children.
So take a look at the latest recommendations by age and the update reasons.
Newest Recommendations for Beverage Consumption for Children Ages 0-5 Years
Babies 0-6 months
- Only breast milk or infant formula.
- It is not recommended to give any juice in this age group.
Babies 6-12 months
- In addition to breast milk or formula, offer small amounts of water with foods.
- It is not recommended to give any juice in this age group.
Toddlers 12-24 months
- Whole Milk, water, and small amounts of 100% fruit juice to avoid added sugars (fruit is preferred).
- No more than 4 oz of 100% fruit juice per day.
2 – 5 years
- Milk (skim or 1%) and water, small amounts of 100% fruit juice (diluting it with some water is a good approach).
- No more than 4 oz of 100% fruit juice per day for 2-3 year olds.
- No more than 4-6 oz of 100% fruit juice per day for 4-5 year olds.
All kids ages 5 and under should avoid drinking flavored milks (e.g., chocolate, strawberry), caffeinated beverages (e.g. soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks), and sugar-free or low-calorie sweetened beverages (e.g. “diet” or “light” drinks, including those sweetened with stevia or sucralose). These beverages can be major sources of added sugars in young children’s diets and provide zero unique nutritional value.
What’s new? Didn’t these recommendations already exist?
Many different guidelines or recommendations do exist for beverages, but there are gaps in either the age ranges covered or the types of beverages discussed. These discrepancies and inconsistencies lead to confusion among healthcare providers, parents, and caregivers. So the suggestions have been reviewed and revamped to be more streamlined and less confusing.
Who made these recommendations, and how did they make this decision?
For the first time ever, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association have come together on consistent recommendations for beverage consumption for children ages 0-5. Healthy Eating Research convened an expert panel from these well known organizations as well as a scientific advisory to develop consensus recommendations. The group conducted a review of 50+ existing beverage consumption documents and literature on the topic from domestic and international bodies before arriving at their final thoughts. All four organizations then reviewed and approved these recommendations. So these decisions were definitely not made lightly!
But My Kids are Juiceaholics… HELP!
So you’re on board with making healthy changes, but your kids aren’t?
Many times when I counsel a parent on their child’s juice intake, their eyes immediately glaze over as they become overwhelmed with the impossible task of changing their child’s dietary habits. But like any lifestyle change whether it is decreasing screen time, changing diet, or increasing exercise, getting started is the hardest part. Once you set boundaries and guidelines, your goal becomes much more achievable.
Here are my top 5 quick tips for making a healthy lifestyle change:
1. Keep a juice log.
I challenge my patients’ parents to create a juice log. Write down exactly how much juice your kids consume in a 3-day period. Many of us go through our day and don’t pay attention to how much sugar our children consume. The amount of sugary beverages their child actually consumes in a day shocks many parents.
This realization is important for two reasons. 1) It serves as a strong motivation to decrease their child’s intake, and 2) it allows parents to set a realistic goal for their family.
2. They can’t drink what isn’t there.
More often than not, when I am educating a parent about juice intake for kids, they tell me their child sneaks soda or juice from the refrigerator. All I can say is that they can’t drink what isn’t there. Eliminating soda and sugary beverages from your grocery list will not only help your child but will help you as well.
3. Water it down.
If your kids are hooked on juice or flavored milk, gradually make changes, such as adding water to juice or adding plain milk to flavored milk. So you wean them off of the sugary beverages. They will gradually adjust and learn to like the less sweet varieties.
4. There is a certain time and place for special drinks.
Set specific times throughout the day when it is okay for your child to have juice. Maybe their one glass a day is after school or in the morning before leaving for the day.
Likewise, as kids age, the panel recommends that they only consume milk at meal times and water in between meals for thirst. This helps to limit the total amount of milk they consume in a day, while also ensuring they get enough water every day.
5. Offer them the real deal.
When your child is asking you for juice, offer them a piece of fruit. Fruit contains all the vitamins and antioxidants without the added sugar. Another great idea is to add fresh fruits to water. It gives the flavor of the fruit without any added sugar.
Final Thoughts on Sugary Drinks and Juice for Kids
Whether you’re a first-time parent or a veteran with 2 or 3 kids under your belt, these guidelines can help you make changes to get your kids on a path to optimal health. The most important thing to note here is that these guidelines ARE doable.
The HealthyDrinksHealthyKids.org website has a lot of practical tips for parents and caregivers. Check it out to make incorporating these guidelines into your daily life as easy as possible.