Children shouldn’t drink much fruit juice, says the policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Schoolchildren, ages 7 to 18, should limit consumption to 8 ounces a day. Preschoolers ages 4 to 6 can have 4 to 6 ounces a day, while toddlers ages 1 to 3 should have no more than 4 ounces a day. And babies should not drink any juice.
Given that most Americans need to increase fruit and vegetables in their diets, and that good diet habits can be established during childhood, why is juice so worrisome?
“The recommendations are centered around two arguments,” says Steven Abrams, a pediatrician at the University of Texas and one of the policy statement authors. Fruit juice is fruit with the fiber and some vitamins taken out, and it damages teeth. “Some pediatricians say no juice at all. I think that’s a bit tough. It is a fruit serving.”
When Gary LeRoy, a family physician in Dayton, Ohio, sees his youngest patients, he appeals to parents’ common sense. “An excessive amount of anything is not good,” he says. “Moderation is the key.”
LeRoy helped create a program with his county’s public health board called 5-2-1-0. The name refers to five daily servings of fruit and vegetables, a two-hour limit on screen time, one hour of physical activity, and zero sugary drinks. It’s a simple rule of thumb for a healthy lifestyle for all county residents.
As for fruit juice, LeRoy says, “If you use juice to count as one of the fruit and vegetable servings, then make sure it is 100 percent fruit juice.”
There are pure juices, and then there are juice beverages or cocktails. The latter typically has added ingredients, such as sugars or preservatives. Anything labeled 100 percent fruit juice comes only from fruit, with no added sugar.
But that doesn’t mean no sugar. A 4.23-ounce box of Mott’s apple juice contains 14 grams of sugar, and the same-size serving of white grape juice from Apple & Eve has 15 grams. That’s more than 3 teaspoons’ worth. A 6-ounce box of Minute Maid orange juice contains 18 grams of sugar, similar to the same-size serving of Coca-Cola (19.5 grams in half a 12-ounce can — all added sugar, in this case).