Juice boxes are a popular and convenient beverage to pack into your child's lunch, serve at birthday parties, and even give out to your child's team after a game. But, are they really a healthy choice?
Here are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for and serving juice boxes:
Make sure it's pure fruit juice. Fruit drinks that aren't 100% juice typically contain added sugars and/or sweeteners that can up both the cavity and calorie counts. Check the label.
Hold off on introducing your child to juice until after his or her first birthday. Avoid from serving it in a bottle.
Don't let your child sip on the juice box (or any other sugar-containing liquid, for that matter) for prolonged periods. Bathing one's teeth in sugary liquids can cause serious tooth decay.
Consider diluting the juice with water. Note: This is different and preferable to the prediluted juice that is sold in stores—those still contain added sugar.
Make sure juice doesn't entirely drown out your child's interest in drinking milk and water.
Buy only pasteurized products (shelf-stable juices, frozen concentrates, or specially marked refrigerated juices) to avoid potential diarrhea-causing infections.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does suggest 100% fruit juice as an acceptable part of a healthy diet, be aware that it's wise to offer it in age-appropriate moderation (none routinely under 12 months of age, no more than 4 ounces a day for children 1 to 3 years of age, and no more 4 to 6 ounces a day for children 4 through 6 years of age). Keep in mind most juice boxes are about 6 ounces each!
Keep an eye out for warning signs of excessive juice intake—excess weight gain, tooth decay, and "toddler's diarrhea." Young kids tend to suck on sugary liquids for prolonged periods when allowed and put their newly acquired teeth at considerable risk. In addition, young children between the ages of 2 and 3 tend to have the highest juice consumption—in some instances enough to cause persistent diarrhea.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: