Parents find it easy to opt for juice as a substitute for a meal or milk when their baby refuses to feed. But is fruit juice a healthy choice? The recent directive by the American Association of Pediatrics to avoid giving fruit juice to babies less than a year old has opened the debate about whether you should choose the fruit over juice. Dr Bakul Parekh, Honorary General Secretary, Indian Academy of Pediatrics (central), shares his views.
Why fruit juice is not recommended
Fruit juice is high in calories. It has less fibre and is devoid of nutrition when compared to a whole fruit. It can lead to obesity because your child will automatically tend to choose the easy option if you start her on juice early. Dr Parekh is emphatic that giving your child juice can alter her feeding habits, causing her to drink less water.
Loss of nutrients due to oxidation
The nutrient density of a fruit decreases when subjected to processing. During the juicing process, sensitive nutrients like vitamin C and carotenoids may get oxidised because of exposure to air, and the heat produced while blending.
Excess sugar and acid
Fruit juice contains added sugar, which leads to excess calorie consumption. This leads to weight gain in your infant. Fruit juice is acidic in nature (lower pH). As bacteria thrive on sugar and acid, children who frequently consume fruit juice are prone to tooth decay and dental cavities.
When to give your child fruit juice
Traditionally, in India, fresh juice from whole apples (with peel intact) and pomegranate, both without sugar and with a pinch of salt, are used for treating diarrhoea. Give your child juices of citrus fruits as they are high in vitamin C and build immunity.
Fruits contain fibre, vitamins and antioxidants, so it is better to give your baby whole fruits instead of juice, says Dr Parekh.
Tips to limit juice intake
- Serve a small quantity of juice in a regular cup instead of a bottle or sippy cup. This prevents your child from sipping from the bottle as and when he likes, which, in turn, prevents cavities.
- Dilute the ready-made juices or add equal measure of water if you’re making fruit juices at home.
With inputs from Clinical Nutritionist, Shiny Lizia M.
The views expressed in this article are those of Dr Bakul and do not necessarily represent those of IAP.