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Avoiding the sweet sip: Why babies under two shouldn’t drink fruit juice
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Avoiding the sweet sip: Why babies under two shouldn’t drink fruit juice

Besides having a high sugar content, juicing the fruit removes fibres and other essential nutrients, making it difficult for toddlers to have a balanced diet

Fruit juices shouldn't be given to babies under two years old, as the high sugar content can cause them to develop a sweet tooth

We all know that fruits — a powerhouse of nutrients — are an indispensable part of a child’s diet. Fruit juices are usually the go-to choice for parents, especially during a baby’s weaning period, when they transition from breastfeeding or formula milk to solids. However, contrary to popular belief, the perils of fruit juices far outweigh the benefits, even in their natural form (100 per cent concentrate with no additives).

Why can’t babies have fruit juice?

As per the recommendations of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, fruit juices should not be given to children under the age of two.

Besides the loss of fibres, the sugar present in fruit juices can be habit-forming as well, says Dr Supraja Chandrasekar, director of pediatric services, Dhee Hospitals, Bengaluru. “In children less than two years of age, the brain would still be developing, and it would not be wise to let them develop a sweet tooth,” she adds.

While Indian pediatricians limit fruit juice consumption in children below two years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics prohibits it for those below the age of one year.

Juicing removes nutrients

“Whole fruits are rich in fibres, which promote gut health, aid bowel movement and prevent constipation. On juicing, these fibres, found largely in the pulp and skin, get destroyed,” says Dr Vishwas SN, senior consultant, department of pediatrics and neonatology, Belenus Champion Hospital, Bengaluru.

He emphasises that fruits also lose protein, vitamins and minerals (like calcium and potassium) during the juicing process, which creates difficulty in providing a balanced diet to the baby.

“Because of their appealing taste, babies tend to consume fruit juices in large quantities, leaving less room for foods that can provide vital nutrients and causing a nutritional imbalance,” notes Dr Vishwas. Hence, parental awareness is important.

Fruit juices elevate blood sugar levels

Dr Jesal Sheth, senior consultant, pediatrics and neonatal intensivist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai, says fruit juices can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, as they are concentrated with more sugar compared to fruits in their whole form.

“Small children may not be able to combat the sugar surge with an adequate insulin response,” she adds.

In addition, the lack of fibre makes the body absorb sugar from the juices more quickly compared to fruits in their whole form. Fruit juices can also cause the baby to develop a sweet tooth, which can lead to tooth decay.

What to feed babies below the age of one?

According to Dr Vishwas, the baby’s gut microflora is fully developed by six months, and they are ready to be introduced to foods other than breast milk or formula.

“Parents can start with dal (lentil) water, rice water, porridge (made from ragi), rice and wheat. Mashed sprouts can be given by eight months, and paneer (Indian cottage cheese) can be introduced by eleven months,” he says.

Dr Sheth opines that fruits can be given to babies in pureed form, where the fibres and nutrients are intact. Babies can also be given plain water and soup during the weaning period.

When to introduce fruit juice to babies?

Parents should be vigilant while introducing fruit juices to children, as moderation is vital.

According to the American Academy of pediatrics, the intake should be limited to four ounces per day for toddlers between one to three years of age.

Children between four to six years old can have four to six ounces of fruit juice per day, while those between seven to 18 years old can have up to eight ounces per day.

Takeaways

  • According to the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, fruit juices should not be given to children under two years of age.
  • Juicing the fruit removes fibres and other essential nutrients. In addition, the sugar present in fruit juices can be habit-forming as well.
  • Foods like dal (lentil) water, rice water, rice, wheat and mashed sprouts can be given to babies during the weaning period.
  • Parents should be vigilant while introducing fruit juices to children, as moderation is vital.

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