Just when you thought you’d nailed down an easy way to sneak some fruit into baby’s diet, the American Academy of Pediatrics puts the kibosh on fruit juice. For the first time in 16 years, the AAP has updated its fruit juice guidelines.
“Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories,” says Melvin B. Heyman, MD, FAAP, co-author of the new statement. “Small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under one.”
Neither fruit nor juice is completely off the table, however. Here’s what you need to know, depending on your child’s age.
0-6 months old
No fruit juice—or fruits—allowed. The AAP emphasizes infants should be fed exclusively breast milk (or formula, if need be) up until the 6-month mark.
While old guidelines okayed fruit juice at this point, the updated version advises parents to avoid it. That’s because introducing juice before solid foods may cause baby to fill up on empty calories, resulting in a reduced intake of protein, fat, and essential vitamins and minerals.
However, Dina DiMaggio, MD, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of NYC and NYU Langone Medical Center and co-author of The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, explains babies older than 6 months still need fruits. But whole fruits—in mashed or pureed form—are the ticket.
“At 6 months of age, babies should be introduced to complementary foods,” DiMaggio tells The Bump. It is important to offer a variety of fruits, vegetables and meats (if not vegetarian) in any order to get your baby used to different tastes and provide optimal nutrition.
Here’s what she suggests for first purees:
- Frozen bananas mixed in a food processor with strawberries or blueberries
Once baby can grasp, small pieces of these soft fruits are great choices that don’t require teeth:
- Died blueberries
- Roasted pears
- Fresh apple sauce
- Pancake pieces with strawberries and blueberries
- Banana or blueberry oat muffin pieces
1-4 years old
Children between these ages need a cup of fruit per day. Whole fruits are still preferred because of the dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals they provide.
By 12 months, though, kids can have fruit juice. And 4 ounces of that recommended 1-cup serving can come from juice.
What kind of juice should you be buying? Madhavi Kapoor, MD, a pediatrician and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, explains:
- Choose juices that are labeled 100 percent fruit juice or reconstituted fruit juice
- Avoid juice cocktails, sweetened fruit drinks and unpasteurized fruit juices
What’s the deal with sippy cups?
The new AAP guidelines encourage parents to use a cup, not a bottle or sippy cup, when giving kids juice. Both DiMaggio and Kapoor explain this is mainly to promote good dental health.
“The reason we advise against giving fruit juice in sippy cups (or spill-proof cups) is because these are more easily transportable and may encourage sipping on fruit juice throughout the day,” Kapoor says. “This can contribute to poor nutrition and excessive exposure of the teeth to carbohydrates, leading to tooth decay. If your infant or toddler wants to sip on something in a sippy cup, fill it with water instead.”
Plus, DiMaggio says continuous sipping on sugary beverages can lead to excessive weight gain.