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Hold the Juice Please!

It’s no secret that most kids love fruit juice. After all, what’s not to love? It’s sweet and refreshing, and since it’s made of fruit, it’s good for you, right? Not so fast, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. While 100 percent fruit juice really is good for children in moderation, it’s also packed with natural sugars which experts say are fueling an epidemic of obesity and dental caries in young children. As a result, the AAP has once again revised its guidelines for serving 100% fruit juice to babies, toddlers, and young children.

In a recent memo released by the AAP entitled “Fruit Juice in Infants, Children, and Adolescents: Current Recommendations,” the AAP announced that it now no longer recommends giving fruit juice to babies under the age of one unless clinically indicated, a change from their previous recommendation of allowing juice at six months of age. The new recommendations state that children between the ages of one and three years of age should drink no more than four ounces of juice per day, and six to eight ounces a day for children ages four to six years old.

So, what’s behind these new guidelines? Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, Texas says it’s a combination of skyrocketing childhood obesity and cavity rates.

”According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity rates in America have more than tripled since the 1970s, and the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation says childhood cavities are now the number one most common childhood disease in the world,” said  Hill. “The kicker is that both are completely preventable.”

So, how bad can fruit juice really be? After all, if it’s 100 percent fruit, it should be healthy, shouldn’t it?

“Remember a few months ago when Starbucks took a lot of heat for their Unicorn Frappuccino, which had 59 grams of sugar in a 16 ounce serving? Look at a 10 ounce, single serving bottle of 100 percent apple juice with no sugar added,” said Hill. “It has 33 grams of sugar. If you do the math, the Unicorn Frappuccino had 3.8 grams of sugar per ounce, and apple juice with no sugar added has 3.3 grams of sugar per ounce. That’s a lot of sugar!”

In addition to the new age guidelines, the AAP now also recommends that children not drink juice from sippy cups or bottles that can be drank from throughout the day. Instead, children should be given fiber-rich fresh fruits in lieu of fruit juices, and breast milk, water, or cow’s milk should be offered to children to drink.

“The reason they recommend not using bottles or sippy cups is that these containers allow children to keep drinking juice throughout the day instead of drinking their serving in one sitting and moving on,” said Hill. “If they take one sip from a bottle every 30 minutes throughout the day, they’d pretty much have sugar on their teeth the entire day. For the same reason, the AAP does not recommend allowing children to have juice at bedtime, as the sugar will sit on their teeth all night as they sleep. For bedtime drinks, you should only give water.”

So, how can you get your juice-loving children to scale back on their favorite beverage?

“Try giving them a piece of fresh fruit, or buy a water pitcher with a fruit infuser in the center,” said Hill. “You can also try cutting their fruit juice with water to dilute it so a 4 ounce serving of juice goes a little further. For babies who haven’t tried juice, I’d suggest you treat it like soda and hold off on introducing it for as long as possible.”

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