Juicing has become an increasingly popular way for adults to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. However, there is much debate around whether juicing is safe and appropriate for toddlers. While juicing can help toddlers consume more produce, there are some potential downsides that parents should consider.
Potential benefits of juicing for toddlers
Here are some of the touted benefits of juicing for toddlers:
- Increases fruit and vegetable intake. Juicing extracts the liquid from produce, concentrating the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. This allows toddlers to consume more fruits and veggies than they could typically eat whole.
- Provides important nutrients. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are rich sources of vitamins A, C, and folate as well as potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants.
- Easy to swallow. The liquid form can be easier for some toddlers to consume than raw fruits and vegetables.
- More palatable than whole produce. Many toddlers enjoy the sweet taste of fresh juices.
- Convenient. Juices are portable and easy for on-the-go toddlers to drink.
Downsides of juicing for toddlers
However, there are some significant downsides associated with giving juice to toddlers:
- Lacks fiber. When produce is juiced, the healthful fiber content is removed. This is problematic since toddlers need fiber for digestion and regulating blood sugar.
- High in sugar. Juice concentrates the natural sugars in fruit. Too much can contribute to cavities and unhealthy weight gain in toddlers.
- May reduce appetite. Drinking juice may fill up a toddler so they are less interested in eating solid foods.
- Potential contaminants. Unpasteurized juices may contain harmful bacteria, pesticides or toxins.
- Nutrient issues. Juices lack protein and healthy fats provided by whole fruits and vegetables.
- Oral health. Excess juice can cause tooth decay and erosion of tooth enamel.
Juice versus whole fruits and vegetables
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends toddlers consume one to one and a half cups of produce per day. But they do not recommend juice for children under 1 year. And for children 1-3 years, juice should be limited to 4 ounces per day at most.
Whole fruits and vegetables provide more balanced nutrition compared to juice. Here is a comparison:
|Nutrient||1 cup of apple slices||1 cup of apple juice|
|Sugar||13 g||25 g|
|Fiber||3 g||0 g|
|Potassium||195 mg||250 mg|
|Vitamin C||8 mg||2 mg|
As you can see, juice is much higher in sugar and calories while being lower in fiber and some vitamins. The chewing required for whole fruit also promotes oral motor development in toddlers.
Recommended juice intake for toddlers
Most experts recommend limiting juice intake for toddlers for optimal nutrition and health:
- Age 0-12 months: No juice recommended
- Age 1-3 years: No more than 4 ounces juice per day
- Age 4-6 years: No more than 4-6 ounces juice per day
When juice is given, it is best to opt for 100% fruit juice and focus on lower sugar fruits like berries, citrus fruits, kiwi and tart cherries. Vegetable juice provides more nutrients than fruit juice, but many toddlers do not like the taste.
Tips for giving toddlers juice safely
If you choose to give your toddler juice, here are some tips to keep them safe and healthy:
- Always dilute juice with water.
- Offer juice in a cup, not a bottle or covered sippy cup.
- Limit juice to mealtimes only.
- Avoid labeling juice as a “treat” or using it as a reward.
- Do not let toddlers carry around or “graze” on juice throughout the day.
- Rinse mouth and brush teeth after drinking juice.
- Check with doctor before giving juice to treat constipation issues.
- Read labels and avoid added sugars, preservatives and artificial sweeteners.
Making your own fresh juices
For optimal nutrition and flavor, you can make fresh juices at home. Here are some healthy juice recipes for toddlers:
Fruit Juice Combinations
|Apple Cherry||1 apple, 5 cherries, and water|
|Tropical Treat||1 orange, 1⁄4 cup pineapple, 1⁄2 banana|
|Peach Pear||1 peach, 1 pear, and water|
|Apple Grape||1 cup green grapes, 1 apple, and water|
|Berry Blend||1 cup strawberries, 1⁄2 cup raspberries, 1⁄2 cup blueberries|
Vegetable Juice Combinations
|Garden Goodness||1 tomato, 1 carrot, 2 celery stalks, 1⁄2 beet, and water|
|Green Machine||1 cucumber, 2 cups spinach, 1⁄2 apple, 1⁄2 lemon|
|Red Reviver||1 sweet potato, 1 large beet, 3 carrots, and water|
|Colorful Combo||1⁄2 cup broccoli, 1⁄2 cup grapes, 1⁄2 cup carrots, and water|
|Mean Green||1 cup kale, 1 green apple, 1⁄2 cucumber, 1⁄2 lemon|
When making juices at home:
- Wash all produce thoroughly under running water.
- Remove rinds, seeds and stems from fruits/veggies if needed.
- Use a juicer or blender to extract the liquid.
- Add water as needed to dilute strong flavors.
- Serve immediately or store covered in refrigerator up to 24 hours.
Potential juicing risks
If you choose to give juice to a toddler, be aware of some safety precautions:
- Choking hazard. Only allow toddlers to drink juice while seated. Do not let them run/play with juice in hand.
- Food poisoning. Use pasteurized juice or thoroughly clean produce and equipment when juicing at home.
- Toxic substances. Ensure any juicer/appliances contains BPA-free materials.
- Allergies. Avoid ingredients like citrus fruits if toddler has food allergies.
- teeth issues. Avoid excessive juice to prevent tooth decay.
Diluting juice with water and offering only at mealtimes can help reduce associated risks.
The verdict on juicing for toddlers
In conclusion, here are some final tips on juicing for toddlers:
- Focus on whole fruits/veggies first to provide balanced nutrition.
- Limit juice to 4 oz or less per day for toddlers 1-3 years old.
- Always dilute juice with water.
- Make fresh juices at home using clean produce.
- Avoid labeling juice as a treat or using it to discipline.
- Have toddlers sit while drinking juice from a cup.
- Rinse mouth after drinking juice.
- Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns.
While juicing can help increase fruit/veggie intake, it is not an absolute requirement for toddler health. Focus on building balanced eating habits with a variety of whole foods first. Use juice in strict moderation, if at all. With careful limits and safety precautions, occasional small amounts of fresh juice can fit into a healthy diet for toddlers 1-3 years old.