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Are Fruit Juices Healthy For Kids? Experts Give This Advice
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  • Just like healthy food for kids, healthy drinks for kids are equally important to their nourishment and nutrition. Many parents, thus, wonder if drinking fruit juice for their children is as good as eating whole fruits.

    Experts weigh in on fruit juices

    Quoting recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), registered dietician Katherine Zeratsky in Mayo Clinic states that children below one year old should not be given fruit juice. She reasons that such beverage doesn't offer any nutritional benefits for kids that young.

    Zeratzsky adds, "Juice also might increase the risk of tooth decay and cause your baby to prefer sweeter flavors instead of plain water."

    She also points out that the AAP doesn't recommend giving kids fruit juice as bedtime drink or as treatment to dehydration or diarrhea. But if it's for constipation, kids can have just a small amount for fruit juice.

    Zeratsky adds, "For children ages 1 to 6 years, the AAP recommends limiting juice to 4 to 6 ounces (120 to 180 milliliters) a day. But juice should be given as part of a meal or snack. Avoid allowing your child to sip juice throughout the day."

    Dr. Natalie D. Muth, a pediatrician and registered dietitian, says 100% juice should not be given at all to babies, even if they're just below one year old. (Read here for more.) It should also be avoided for kids of all ages.

    She gives an explanation in Healthy Children, which is affiliated with AAP, saying that such type of drink is "very sweet tasting and lacks fiber." Fiber is a chief nutrient found in whole fruits.

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    She points out, "Once children are exposed to juice, it may be difficult to limit portions or get them to prefer plain water." But if a whole fruit is not available, she agrees to giving kids just a small amount of 100% juice for specific age groups to get some of its nutritional value.

    Here are the recommendations by the AAP:

    • Kids from 2 to 3 years old, they can have not more than 4 ounces (118 mL) a day.
    • Kids from 4 to 5 years old, they can have not more than 6 ounces (177 mL) a day.
    • Kids from 7 to 18, they can have not more than 8 ounces (240 miL) a day, which is half of the recommended daily fruit servings.

    Zeratsky says that research suggests that "drinking small amounts of 100% fruit juice doesn't affect a child's weight." But then again, she points out, fruit juice contains calories, and just like any other food or calorie-containing drink, "too much fruit juice can contribute to weight gain." (Read here about being overweight among children.)

    She shares these reminders when deciding to give your kids fruit juice: "If you give your child fruit juice, choose 100% fruit juice instead of sweetened juice or juice cocktails. While 100% fruit juice and sweetened fruit drinks might have similar calorie counts, your child will get more nutrients and fewer additives from 100% juice."

    She also suggests adding water to dilute the concentration of the 100% fruit juice and lessen its sweetness. She makes it clear that while one cup of 100% fruit juice is the same with one cup of whole fruit, there's no fiber in the drink.

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    Healthy drinks for kids

    Experts agree that instead of fruit juice, children should continue drinking milk. At 12 months, Dr. Muth points out you can transition your baby from either breast milk or formula to whole or reduced-fat milk. But if you wish to go on breastfeeding, you may do so.

    Another example of healthy drinks for kids is water, which you can start giving to your baby at around six months old. But just little bit of water, about 4 to 8 ounces (0.5 to 1 cup) a day. Help your child drink in an open, sippy, or strawed cup. This helps develop cup drinking skills and familiarity with water, according to Dr. Muth.

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