The Right Way to Serve Juice

Fruit juice is a popular beverage for kids, but there has been a great deal of apprehension regarding its place in a healthy diet. Concerns have been raised on issues from rotting teeth to childhood obesity, leading many people to skip juice altogether. The truth is that, as with most things in life, moderation and careful consumption are the keys to finding a place for juice in your child’s healthy diet.

When to Introduce Juice

Before six months of age, you shouldn’t give your child any beverage besides breast milk or formula, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Generally, the only time a child this young will be given fruit juice is to relieve constipation. Follow your doctor’s directions carefully on how much juice to offer in this situation; too much juice can swing the pendulum the other way and leave your baby with diarrhea!

After six months old, it’s ok to introduce a small amount of juice to baby’s diet. Keep it to 4 ounces or less per day. Some parents choose to mix the juice with water, but this isn’t entirely necessary. The amount of juice should remain the same whether diluted or not. Some children may prefer diluted juice as they are not accustomed to it and it can be a bit too strong for them. After a year old, the amount per day doesn’t go up by much. Keep it under 6 ounces until your child is 7 years old.

Choosing and Serving Juice

Always look for a juice that is 100% juice, and doesn’t contain any additives or sweeteners. 100% juice contains far more nutrition than juices that are blended with other ingredients. Apple juice is a popular first choice for young children, but use caution as it can cause diarrhea – which is why it is use to treat constipation! Some children may be more sensitive to this effect than others. Save citrus juices for later in life, as they are too acidic for very young children.

Juice should always be served in a cup, and never in a bottle. This will help prevent tooth decay. As a further precaution, brush baby’s teeth after juice if it’s close to naptime, as sleeping with the sugars left on teeth can also accelerate tooth decay.

The Nutritional Benefits of Juice

Just like the fruits they come from, fruit juices provide vitamins and minerals for your child’s growing body. Some juices are also fortified with other nutrients like calcium or vitamin C. Removing the juice from the fruit, however, leaves behind such nutritional essentials as fiber. While it can be a healthy addition to your child’s diet, juice should never replace eating whole fruits and vegetables. When it comes to a choice between the two, fresh fruit will always pack a bigger nutritional punch and be a better choice than a cup of juice.

Juice and Childhood Obesity

Luckily, new research indicates that concerns over obesity being caused by fruit juices are unfounded. Children who drink moderate amounts of fruit juice are not at a higher risk of obesity. Juice does contain calories, however, and unlike a whole fruit, it won’t leave your child feeling as full for as long. This can lead to overconsumption of extra calories. As long as you stick to the 4 or 6 ounce rule depending on your child’s age, this should not be a problem.

Adding juice to your child’s diet is fine if done in moderation, but remember, eating fruit is always a better choice.

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