The mother leaned over her little boy’s crib and asked, “Do you want your juice now? Do you?”
The infant smiled and grabbed eagerly at the bottle the mother had offered. He greedily began to drink the juice.
His mother smiled but was a bit concerned that her son’s appetite had decreased recently. It seemed like the only thing he wanted to drink was his juice. She didn’t feel she had much choice but to give him what he wanted.
Parents can often get confused about fruit juices. This is due to fruit juices being touted as a healthy alternative to artificially sweetened drinks such as soda and sports drinks. However, fruit juices have many of the same drawbacks as the artificially sweetened drinks. This includes having little nutritional value and being high in calories.
Despite these drawbacks, parents often give their infants and toddlers juice as they perceive it to be a healthy drink for them. Infants and toddlers like it because it is hard to beat the sweetness of juice. Infants come into this world predisposed to liking sweet tasting food and drinks. The more exposure they get to sweet food and drinks, the more they prefer it over other food options. This is to say, infants and toddlers will always favor the taste of juice over other options, if given a choice.
The downside for infants who drink juice is that they are likely to have a decreased appetite which can lead to malnutrition since juice at this age has no nutritional benefit. Other side effects infants can have include diaper rashes, diarrhea, and excessive or poor weight gain. The good news is that parents can do something about infants drinking juice.
Parents control their infants and toddlers diets. They have the ability to shape their infants and toddlers food preferences based on the food they choose to give them. Infant and toddler taste preferences are very malleable at this age. If parents expose them to eating vegetables and various healthy foods, then infants and toddlers will begin to prefer those foods.
The best route for parents is to not give their infants or toddlers juice at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants under the age of six months should not drink any juice. The recommendation for toddlers and children is to limit juice to only four to six ounces per day and serve it along with a meal or snack. The advantage of a no juice approach is that infants and toddlers won’t know what they are missing. Instead they will become used to healthier and less sweet options and begin to prefer them.
Parents need to take control and say no to juice and have their children get used to drinking water or milk. Once those drinking habits sink in, children will be less likely to feel the need for sweetened drinks. This will improve their overall health.
This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on September 18, 2015