New parents might get overwhelmed with all the information around them about the goodness of fruits and vegetables. This shower of information leads to choices which sometimes may not be well-thought.
One such decision is whether to provide fruit juices to babies. Juices often seem a healthy option since they come from fruits and vegetables. But are juices really healthy for the baby? Which fruit or vegetable juices can you try feeding them?
In this post, MomJunction tells you if fruit and vegetable juices are good for the baby, the benefits and possible effects of juices, and more.
What Is Juice?
The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) labels a product as “juice” only if it is 100% juice, i.e., the pulp included. For juices made from concentrate, the label must mention that the product is reconstituted from concentrate. In general, commercial juices contain between 10-99% juice, added sweeteners, varied flavors, and fortifiers such as vitamin C or calcium. These ingredients must be listed on the label as per the regulations (1).
Are Fruit And Vegetable Juices Good for Babies?
Ideally, we should avoid juices for babies under one year of age as they have no nutritional value and increase the risk of tooth decay (2). For babies above one year, juices could have similar health benefits as those for adults. Juices could provide certain health benefits provided the juices are fed in moderation and are a part of the baby’s balanced diet.
You may try stewed apple, grape, muskmelon, watermelon, carrot, orange, tomato, sweet lime, pear, peach, mango, berries, lychee, beetroot, kale, lemon, watercress.
Benefits of Fruit and Vegetable Juices
The following are some key benefits of fruit and vegetable juices for babies:
- Source of micronutrients: Fruit and vegetable juices can be a source of micronutrients, namely minerals and vitamins. These multivitamins and minerals help in the healthy growth of the baby.
- Healthy blood circulation: Fruit and vegetable juices are believed to affect cardiovascular health. Juice may help lower blood pressure and improve blood lipid profiles (3). It occurs because juices contains a variety of polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals .
- Prevention of inflammation: Fruit and vegetable juices have compounds that can help reduce inflammation. It can have a role in the general well-being of the baby.
- Prebiotic effect: Vegetable and fruit juices have bioactive compounds like polyphenols, oligosaccharides, fiber and nitrate. In human gut, these compounds may induce a prebiotic-like effect (4). The prebiotics work as food for the gut microbes. Healthy gut microbes can help improve the overall health of the digestive system.
All these benefits can also be achieved by encouraging your baby to eat lots of different fruits and vegetables, mashed, pureed or finger foods.
When Can Your Baby Start Drinking Juice?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against giving juice to infants under 12 months of age, as it does not provide any added nutritional benefits. After 12 months of age, infants may have controlled amounts of juice occasionally but whole foods are a better option.
How Much Juice Can You Give Your Baby?
For babies above 12 months of age, juice can be introduced in the diet in diluted form one part juice in 10 parts of water to minimize the risk of tooth decay. Also, limit the intake to no more than 60-120ml a day (5).
Can Juices Be Harmful To Babies?
There are no serious side effects of fruit and vegetable juices, but they could pose some health issues (1):
- Juices, especially fruit juices, are considered high in their overall sugar content and this content increases further if the juices have added sugar too. This might contribute to increased calorie consumption.
- Increased calorie consumption might lead to increased weight gain.
- Juices pose a risk of dental caries, especially in babies and young children.
- They lack fiber, which is essential for various body functions.
- As the juices, especially fruit juices, are sweet, babies and young children might develop a taste for them and refuse other food groups.
- Juices made commercially could have added sweeteners, flavors, additives and preservatives which are not ideal for babies and young children.
The juices that you feed the baby should be pasteurized (6). Unpasteurized juices could contain harmful bacteria, which might be detrimental to the baby’s health.
Are Homemade Juices Safe?
Homemade juice is fresh, hygienic, and can be customized for your baby. However, it needs to be sterilized through pasteurization or boiling.
Adults do not require pasteurized or boiled juice because their immune system can handle the bacteria. But, the US FDA recommends that the juice be boiled to eliminate all bacteria before feeding it to a toddler (7).
Tips For Feeding Fruit Juices To Babies
- Use a cup or spoon to feed the juice as feeding it in the bottle might lead to over-consumption.
- Begin with only 2-3 spoons of juice so that the baby may get used to the taste of juices.
- Give 100% concentrated juice rather than juice drinks or powder mixes, which are sweetened. Also, to ease the digestion of concentrated juice, dilute it with boiled and cooled water.
- Do not replace the meals with fruit juices. Instead, let juices be an accompaniment with the balanced meals.
- Begin with vegetable juice rather than fruit juice because babies tend to prefer fruit juices because of their sweet taste and may develop a dislike for vegetable juices.
- Avoid adding extra salt, sugar, honey, or any other condiments to the juice as it might be difficult for your baby to digest.
- You can begin with a single vegetable or single fruit juice and then gradually combine a few fruits or vegetables.
- Do not give fruit juice around bedtime as it might cause digestive issues like bloating, gas, and indigestion in babies.
- Juices should not be used for the treatment of dehydration or diarrhea.
Note: If you are giving a vegetable or fruit juice for the first time, notice for any signs of allergy.
You may give juices to your baby as long as they are not substituting a healthy meal. Do not add any sugar or salt lest the baby might develop a taste for such juices. Retain the pulp and feed the concentrated juice to make sure that the nutrients are not drained. However, avoid any juices for babies less than one year old. Instead give them breastmilk and try giving them whole fruits and vegetables.
Have you started giving juices to your baby? Share your story in the comments section below.
2. Where We Stand: Fruit Juice; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Zheng J et al., Effects and Mechanisms of Fruit and Vegetable Juices on Cardiovascular Diseases; International Journal of Molecular Sciences
4. Henning SM et al., Health benefit of vegetable/fruit juice-based diet: Role of microbiome; National Centre for Biotechnology Information (2017)
5. Fruits, Veggies and Juices from Food Safety for Moms to Be; Food And Drug Administration;USDA
6. Jackie Newgent, The Juicing Trend – About Raw Juice; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2018)
7. Soft drinks, juice and sweet drinks – children; State Government of Victoria, Australia
8. The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics; American Academy of Pediatrics
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