When Is Too Much Fruit Juice Unhealthy for Your Child?

Boy (8-10) at table, drinking orange juice
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Is fruit juice dangerous? The American Academy of Pediatrics thought that it was enough of a danger to issue a policy statement about 'The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics'.

In reality, there are a lot of other more important dangers to your child's health, but drinking too much fruit juice can be a problem. According to the AAP, drinking too much juice can contribute to obesity, the development of cavities (dental caries), diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems, such as excessive gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Recommended Daily Amounts for Fruit Juice

Among the recommendations of the AAP report, which are actually daily limits of how much fruit juice kids should drink, and not an actual recommendation to drink juice, are that:

  • When you give your child juice, it should be 100% pasteurized fruit juice and not fruit drinks.
  • Infants under 6 months of age should not be given juice, although many pediatricians do recommend small amounts of juice for children that are constipated.
  • Infants between 6 and 12 months can drink up to 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day but should do it only in a cup, not a bottle.
  • Younger children aged 1 to 6 years should have only 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day.
  • Older children should be limited to 8 to 12 ounces of juice a day.
  • Instead of juice, children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits.

Preventing Problems

How do you prevent problems from drinking too much juice? One easy way is to not introduce juice until your child is six months old.

And when you do begin to offer your infant juice, give it in a cup and not a bottle.

Older infants and toddlers generally drink too much juice when they always have a sippie cup in their hands, or if they are sucking on the cup like they would a bottle. Although sippie cups are convenient and it is nice to prevent messes, if you child always has one in his hands, then he is probably most at risk of getting cavities, since his teeth will always have sugar on them.

To prevent your child's cups from becoming a security object for toddlers, it can help to restrict them to meals, when you offer milk and snacks.

It may also help to change to a "sport's bottle" type cup, which can also prevent spills and messes but isn't as easy to drink out of as a regular sippie cup.

The Juice 'Problem'

One of the main problems with drinking too much juice is that it is filling and will decrease your child's appetite for other more nutritious foods. While your child will still get a lot of calories, they will mostly be from sugars or carbohydrates and lack sufficient protein, which can contribute to a poorly balanced diet. Also, fruit juices generally don't have a lot of vitamins and nutrients, although they do have vitamin C and some are fortified with calcium. Also, if you child is drinking a lot of juice, then he probably isn't drinking much milk, which is a good source of calcium and other vitamins and nutrients

Does Your Child Have a Problem?

In general, if you child is eating a well-balanced diet, including some fresh fruits and vegetables, is drinking 16 to 24 ounces a day of milk and dairy products, and doesn't have problems with cavities or being overweight, then he likely doesn't have a juice problem, even if you are exceeding the AAP limits.

If your child is exceeding the AAP limits and is a picky eater, has a poorly balanced diet, cavities, diarrhea, chronic abdominal pain or if he is overweight, then you should consider taking steps to limit his intake of juice. You should definitely avoid letting your child fall asleep with a bottle or cup of juice since that is probably the biggest risk factor for getting cavities. Also, avoid giving 'fruit' drinks or 'fruit' sodas, since they may actually have very little fruit in them.

Are There Any Benefits?

After all of this talk about the "juice" controversy, is there any reason to give your child juice at all?

Many kids don't like eating fruit, so offering fruit juice is one way to get your child the 2 (for younger kids) to 4 servings (older kids) of fruit that is recommended in the Food Pyramid Guide. A 6-ounce glass of 100% fruit juice can substitute for (but is not really equal to) one serving of fruit. The AAP advises that half of your child's fruit servings from the Food Pyramid Guide can come from 100% fruit juice.

Still, it is important to remember that the recommended servings of fruit juice are actually limits. Your child does not need to drink any fruit juice, especially if he is getting the Food Guide Pyramid's recommended servings of fruit by eating whole fruit.

Fruit juice can be helpful for children who are constipated and fruit juice diluted with fluoridated water is a good way to get your child fluoride if he doesn't like to drink plain water.


American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy Statement. The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics. PEDIATRICS Vol. 107 No. 5 May 2001, pp. 1210-1213.

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