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Juice and Your Children: Can They Drink too Much?

child drinking juiceTRUE OR FALSE? "Fruit juice can make kids gain weight!"

by Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.

In late 2006, a study in Pediatrics sent reporters scrambling to keyboards and cameras. Drinking too much fruit juice—fruit juice!—might actually be making our kids fat. Since then, many parents have been left to wonder, “Huh?”

It’s time to set the record straight.


WHAT DO THE STUDIES SAY?

The Pediatrics study found that:

  • children who were already overweight or at risk for being so who drank excessive fruit juice gained a tiny bit more weight per month than their peers.
  • children who ate more whole fruit gained less.

Results from other studies have been inconsistent, but the fact is, too many calories from any source will eventually lead to weight gain, and juice happens to be easy to overconsume. It’s delicious and often comes in large portions, and liquid calories are less filling than calories from food.

However, unlike candy, chips, cookies and sodas, which are also easy to overconsume, 100-percent fruit juice naturally offers healthy doses of vitamins and minerals. So what to do?

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HOW MUCH JUICE IS THE RIGHT AMOUNT?
You can still offer juice; just keep portions small. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • up to 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of fruit juice per day for 1- to 6-year-old babies and children.
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups for older children.

When it comes to liquids at mealtimes, the mantra in my house is, “Milk first, then juice.” Whole fruit, with its high fiber content, is still the best fruit option, but juice can also help kids meet their daily fruit quota.


VERDICT: True, to an extent.

ELISA ZIED, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., is a registered dietitian in New York City, co-author of Feed Your Family Right! and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Last updated and/or approved: May 2010. Original article appeared in September/October 2007 former print magazine. Bio current as of September 2007. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

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