As you continue to introduce new foods to your toddler, you might think adding juice to his or her meals is a great way to include a fruit or vegetable. However, you may just be adding extra sugar instead.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends whole fruit instead of fruit juice for children 6 months of age and older, while children younger than 6 months old should not have any juice. The AAP found that overconsumption of juice could lead to weight gain, tooth decay and digestive health problems. Before serving juice during your toddler’s next meal, consider the amount of sugar per 6-ounce serving of each of these juices:
- Orange juice: 16.5 grams
- Apple juice: 20.5 grams
- Grape juice: 27 grams
For an even more shocking comparison, consider these amounts in terms of sugar packets. There are 4 grams of sugar in one sugar packet. This means that a 6-ounce serving of orange juice contains more than four sugar packets, apple juice contains more than five and grape juice contains nearly seven packets. The amount of sugar in these fruit juices is on par with or more than the amount of sugar found in most sodas.
When selecting a beverage, stick with plain water or skim or low-fat milk instead. Add a piece of fruit at snack time to ensure your toddler will benefit from nutrients and natural fiber—without added sugars. Choosing fruit is also more cost-effective when planning meals or snacks, since many juices can cost anywhere from $3 to $5, while purchasing a pound of oranges costs around just 72 cents.
Making Fruit More Mealtime-Friendly
If your little one doesn’t like the idea of eating fruit just yet, there are plenty of creative ways to include it in his or her diet.
- Blend it. When your child craves juice, try blending up frozen strawberries and blueberries with low-fat milk or yogurt for a sippable treat.
- Chop it. Cut up small pieces of banana for a simple, healthful treat. Add a bit of peanut butter for a tasty protein punch.
- Mold it. Add small chunks of fresh fruit when preparing sugar-free gelatin. You can even use cookie cutters to make fun-shaped snacks.
To find a nutritionist to meet your toddler’s health needs, visit peytonmanning.stvincent.org.
Reviewed by Quinn Bensi, M.D., pediatrician, St.Vincent Physician Network.