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The Place For Juice and Other Drinks

Fruit Juice Facts

What's in fruit juice & fruit drinks? iStock_Juice_1.jpg

The good news is that fruit has a water content of around 90% (variations occur depending on the type of fruit), therefore the main component of fruit juice is water. However, fruit juice is also high in simple sugars, but deficient in complex carbohydrates, protein, fat and fibre (unless the pulp is included) and only has small amounts of minerals and vitamins. Some fruit juices are naturally a good source of vitamin C, others may be fortified with vitamin C or calcium.

Fruit drinks

Juice drinks are NOT fruit juice and are NOT as nutritious as 100% juice. Most fruit drinks contain 10% or less of pure fruit juice and can include additives such as sweeteners, artificial flavours and supplements such as vitamin C or calcium. Fruit drinks offer little or no nutritional value to a child's diet. Fruit flavoured fizzy drinks generally contain no juice. See ‘soft drinks’ information below for more.

Problems with too much fruit juice

Fruit juice itself is not a problem in moderation but it is very easy for children to drink too much. Below are problems that can occur if your child drinks too much juice:

  • Tooth decay

Drinks high in sugar (including fruit juice) are a major cause of tooth decay. It is recommended infants, toddlers and young children shouldn’t be left with sugary drinks in a bottle or sipper cup as the sugary fluid sits in the mouth and drip onto the teeth (this includes babies with bottles of juice at bedtime). It is the duration that the liquid sits in the mouth that causes the tooth decay.

  • Stomach upsets

Fruit juice can cause gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort for many infants due to their immature digestive system. The digestive tract of young babies does not have enough of the necessary dietary enzymes to adequately digest the high level of sugars found in juice. Even as a child's digestive system matures there remains limits on how much juice an individual can be digest at any one time. The key is only offering a little juice and ensuring it is diluted to reduce the sugar content.

  • Diarrhoea
Chronic diarrhoea has been linked to excess juice consumption. Babies and young children are particularly prone to diarrhoea from juice because of their immature digestive systems. When sugar is poorly digested it is not absorbed into the blood stream so it passes into the large bowel. The body gets rid of undigested sugar by flushing it out. Sugar in the large bowel draws in additional fluid and the bacteria in the bowel ferment the sugar which results in gas…and ultimately watery runny stools.

The flip side of this is…fruit juice may be recommended for constipation but always seek professional advice first to ensure you are using the best fruit juice and optimal amount.

  • Failure to thrive/Malnutrition
Juice can suppress a child's natural appetite. If your child drinks too much juice, the juice may replace breast milk, infant formula or other nutritious foods which are necessary for healthy growth and development. The energy content (calories) of fruit juice can make a child feel full which may stop the child from eating a variety of other important foods in their day.
A child can be underweight, overweight or within a healthy weight range and still be malnourished if they are not consuming a well balanced diet. It is much healthier for a child to eat their calories than to drink them. Fruit juice and fruit drinks are high in simple sugars (calories) but do not offer the required complex carbohydrates, protein, fat or fibre. Furthermore, they are low in essential minerals, such as iron, calcium and zinc.

While a child who drinks a lot of juice will still receive a lot of calories from the sugars (and therefore may gain weight), drinking too much juice can lead to a failure to thrive health wise and malnutrition. 

  • Obesity

Excessive intake of fruit juice results in an increased consumption of simple ‘empty calories’ and therefore it can lead to obesity problems. For more information see the article on ‘Childhood Obesity’.

  • Does not promote healthy eating habits

An over reliance on one food type (like fruit juice) does not promote healthy eating habits as it doesn’t encourage a healthy varied diet. Whole fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a balanced diet and although fruit juice can contribute it does not provide (and therefore should not replace) the essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins provided by whole fruit and vegetables.

  • Expense - $$$$$$

Fruit juice is expensive and although it provides some nutrients it offers no nutritional benefit for babies younger than 12 month as they receive sufficient vitamins and minerals from breast milk (provided maternal intake is adequate) or infant formula. Fruit juice also offers no nutritional benefit over whole fruit for children older than 12 months. Children do not need to drink ANY fruit juice if they eat the recommended daily intake of fruit. Seasonal whole fruit is much cheaper, healthier and cost effective than fruit juice.

  • Reluctance to drink water

Potentially the biggest problem with your child drinking too much fruit juice is the fact that they are less likely to want to drink plain old water!! Water is best…it has may health benefits and it quenches thirst without all the sugar and additives. Understandably, if sugary alternatives are freely available, your child will not accept plain water because they will have developed a taste for a sweetened drink.


Water - Wonderful Water

The following tips may help to make water the fluid of choice for your child:
  • Ensure water is freely accessible to your child - a good drink bottle is essential.
  • Offer water with all meals and snacks.
  • Have water on the table at meal and snack times
  • Keep chilled water in a jug in the fridge and add slices of lemon or orange or a sprig of mint
  • If you are going to offer juice, offer it at one sitting NOT in a sipper or bottle that can be drunk throughout the day.
  • In summer, freeze small pieces of chopped fruit in ice blocks and add these to water at snack and mealtimes
  • Always take filled water bottles when you go out with your child. 

 

With encouragement, healthy children will accept water – particularly if milk and water are the only fluids offered.

The place for Juice

100% fruit juice is not all bad – it does contain nutrients and it can count towards your child’s daily fruit intake - 250 mls of fruit juice is considered one serving of fruit. But it is important to choose your juice carefully and limit the amount offered. Remember; even the healthiest fruit juices can easily become too much of a good thing!
 

If you choose juice keep the following in mind - 

  • Sugar and water are the major components of 100% fruit juices and fruit drinks.
  • The amount of sugar in 200 mls of fruit juice can range from 18 to 27 grams (depending on the type of fruit) which is about to 4.5 to 7 teaspoons of sugar!!!
So how much fruit juice is too much?

These recommendations are maximum amounts to be offered, there is no minimum amount of juice to offer a child as it is not necessary to offer juice at all.

6 - 12 months 4oz or 120ml per day = 1/2 cup
1 - 5 years 6oz or 180ml per day = 3/4 cup
5 years plus 8oz or 240ml per day = 1 cup

Choose fresh fruit and vegetables to meet the rest of the fruit/vege requirement and to ensure a healthy balanced diet.


So what about soft drinks and cordial?

Like fruit juice, soft drinks and cordial are full of sugar however unlike fruit juice, they have very little to offer nutritionally and offer virtually no vitamins or minerals. To make matters worse - soft drinks contain additives and can contain stimulants (such as caffeine) which are not good for your child. Considering this, soft drinks and cordials should be avoided if possible – if they are offered; keep them as a very rare ‘treat food’ and only offer in very small quantities.
 
The facts about other fluids:
 
  • Whole cow’s milk can be introduced when your baby is 12 months old. It contains protein, calcium and other nutrients.
  • Toddlers have high energy needs, so reduced-fat milks are not recommended until your child has turned two.
  • Skim milk, which has no fat at all, is not recommended for children under five.
  • Soy milk – even with added calcium – doesn't have the nutrients your baby needs, which is why it is not recommended as a replacement for breast milk or formula.
  • Tea and coffee - Tannins in tea and coffee prevent iron in food from being absorbed. Serve water at meal times, rather than tea and coffee.  
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