November 25, 2019 — Parents want to serve healthy foods and drinks to their kids. 100% fruit juice sounds healthy. It’s just the juice from different types of fruits — apples, oranges or grapes.
There’s no added sugar in 100% fruit juice, but new national recommendations and local dietitians recommend limiting it for children.
We talked with Pam Horan, a registered dietitian at the Providence Medical Group Pediatric Subspecialty Clinic in Anchorage, to learn more about juice. She works with families of children who are trying to maintain a healthy weight. She also works with children who have diabetes. Horan said she focuses on helping these families make changes that support lifelong healthy eating goals that include eating fruits and vegetables every day and limiting added sugar.
Horan said juice is a source of liquid calories and sugar — even though it’s natural sugar and not added sugar. Read Horan’s answers about juice and other drinks below.
How much 100% fruit juice can children have in a day?
Juice is not recommended at all for children under 1 years old. Whole fruit is really the preferred source for daily fruit intake. But if you choose to serve juice, the upper limit is no more than 4 ounces (1/2 cup) a day for children between 1–3 years old. For children between 4 and 6 years old, it’s no more than 6 ounces (3/4 cup) a day and for children who are 7 years old or older, no more than 8 ounces a day (1 cup).
That’s not much fruit juice! Do you have suggestions for other healthy drinks that parents and caregivers can serve children?
At mealtimes, drink a glass of milk or water. During the day, try infused water. Infused water looks pretty and tastes great. It allows you to get a hint of flavor in your water without creating a high sugar drink. To make your own infused water take some cut-up fruit (fresh or frozen) and/or herbs and add them to your water. The longer the fruit sits in your water before you drink it, the more flavor the drink will have. For a stronger flavor, allow the fruit and water to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
What are some simple recipes for infused water?
Make your own infused water at home with some of these popular flavor combinations:
- Strawberry and basil
- Orange and blueberries
- Kiwi strawberry or kiwi lime
- Cucumber mint or cucumber strawberry
- Lemon lime
- Mixed berries
- Watermelon or mashed cantaloupe
- Pineapple mint
Don’t be afraid to play with different fruit combinations that you like. For maximum flavor and food safety, make sure you wash your fruit before cutting. Infused water can safely stay in your fridge for up to 3 days if the fruit has been washed. Be aware though that the fruit starts to get mushy within 12–24 hours.
Is the natural sugar found in whole fruit and 100% fruit juice better for you than other sugars, like white table sugar or brown rice syrup?
100% fruit juice may be a bit better than just having a spoon of any sugar, but it still can't satisfy your hunger or provide all the nutritional benefits like a piece of fruit can. A whole piece of fruit provides fiber for healthy digestion and cholesterol control, vitamins and minerals that help our body function and cancer fighting chemicals called antioxidants. Whole fruit is really the preferred source for daily fruit intake.
Why do pediatricians and dietitians recommend limiting 100% fruit juice for children?
Sugar. Sugar plays a large role in childhood obesity and dental decay. A small daily intake of juice has not been shown to contribute to obesity in children, but can still contribute to cavities. If a person wants to drink juice, they can as long as they stay within the recommended daily limits. They would also benefit from a glass of water afterwards to rinse the sugar off of their teeth.
Many drinks say “Contains Fruit Juice” or “Organic” on the front of the bottle. Does that mean these are healthy drinks?
No. A drink with this label may only be a small amount of actual fruit juice and then be filled with sugar, water, dyes and other "flavors." "Organic" labeling only refers to the process of growing and producing a food item free of artificial pesticides and fertilizer. Being "Organic" cannot be used in any other way to determine if a food item is healthy.
The labels on drinks can be confusing for families. Some beverages are called fruit drinks or fruit cocktails. Others are 100% fruit juice. Are those the same types of drinks?
Fruit drink, cocktails and punches are typically a mixture of water, sugar and some type of flavoring. They may contain little or no actual fruit. To help us stay within the recommended daily sugar limits listed above, water and milk should be the liquids that we drink on a daily basis (mostly water).
Read more about the new Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids national recommendations for children ages 5 and younger.