We Can't Pretend Juice Is Healthy For Babies Any More

Juice is liquid lollies. Sure, it has a few more vitamins than your average can of Coke, but it also has more sugar. Your days of pretending it's healthy are over: official health bodies have finally found the guts to tell us to stop giving juice to babies.

Photo by Paul.

Sort of. "It is optimal to completely avoid the use of juice in infants before 1 year of age," the AAP writes in their new juice recommendations. You get the feeling they don't think parents will listen. Juice was already off-limits for babies under six months (who should get all their nutrition from human milk or formula), and they have lowered the amount they recommend feeding to older kids. Now they say 120mL in a day is plenty for a one-year-old, or 240mL (that's one measly cup) for kids seven and up.

Harsh as these new rules sound, they make sense. There's no nutritional reason to give kids juice: It's just sugar and water. If you want to feed them fruit, feed them actual fruit, which contains fibre and other good stuff that juice leaves out. And if you want to hydrate them, stick with water for everyday uses and Hydralyte for medical ones: Parents sometimes give juice to kids with diarrhoea, but the sugar in juice (and sports drinks, for that matter) can make diarrhoea worse.

What about that favourite tactic of un-fun parents everywhere — watering down juice? This makes it lower in sugar, which means it's less like lollies as far as your kid's diet is concerned. Their teeth may not notice the difference, though: The AAP notes that kids who sip juice all day tend to get cavities, and there's no evidence that watered-down juice results in fewer cavities.

So, bottom line: If you want to give your kids something fruity and healthy, give them fruit. If you want to give them a treat, juice can be that treat. But we don't get to pretend they're the same thing any more.


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