Health Encyclopedia

Too Much Juice?

Although most children love fruit juice, that tasty beverage has a price. Juice contains a lot of natural sugar, so drinking too much can lead to obesity, digestive problems, and tooth decay.

A typical 8-ounce glass of apple juice has 120 calories. Unless the juice is fortified with vitamin C and calcium, it contains negligible nutrients. Since juice tastes good, children often drink several glasses a day. When children are filling up on juice and skipping other nutrient-dense foods, they are at risk for obesity and malnutrition. Furthermore, many juices contain a lot of sorbitol, a natural sugar. Most sorbitol is not absorbed by the the intestines and can cause diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. And even though white grape juice doesn't contain sorbitol, it still contains plenty of calories! 

Instead of offering juice, offer your child whole fruit every day. The sugar in a piece of fruit is less concentrated, the fiber has not been removed, and fruit is more filling for the total calories it contains.

Beverage tips:

  • Limit preschoolers to 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day; 8 to 12 ounces for older children and teens, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Make sure kids drink 100 percent juice, not a fruit-flavored beverage. Remember that because of labeling laws, made with 100% real juice does not necessarily mean that the drink contains only pure juice. Read the label carefully to see if sugar, artificial flavors, or other substances were added.

  • Dilute juices with club soda or tap water.

  • Offer milk (1 percent or skim) and water instead of juice. You can try spicing up water with lemon or other fruit.

  • Limit carbonated drinks and soft drinks.

  • Choose citrus juices (orange and grapefruit) that are calcium fortified and don't contain added sugar. Citrus juices are naturally high in vitamin C.