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Is it OK to give my child fruit juice?

While whole fruit is the best choice, certain types of fruit juice can be a healthy part of your child's diet.

Recent studies have confirmed that drinking moderate amounts of 100 percent fruit juice doesn't affect a child's weight. However, fruit juice contains calories. Just like any other food or calorie-containing drink, too much fruit juice can contribute to weight gain.

If you choose to give your child fruit juice, choose 100 percent fruit juice instead of sweetened juice or fruit-juice cocktails. While 100 percent fruit juice and sweetened fruit drinks might have a similar number of calories, your child will get more vitamins and nutrients and fewer additives from 100 percent juice.  Serve juice in a cup — not a bottle — to avoid tooth decay. In addition, serve fruit juice only with a snack or a meal, rather than allowing your child to sip juice throughout the day. If you're having trouble getting your child to eat, don't allow him or her to drink any liquids 30 minutes before meals or snacks.

To ensure that your child isn't drinking too much juice, follow these limits from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association:

    Birth to 6 months: No fruit juice, unless it's used to relieve constipation
    6 months to 6 years: 4 to 6 ounces (118 to 177 milliliters) a day
    7 years and older: 8 to 12 ounces (237 to 355 milliliters) a day

About 4 ounces (118 milliliters) of 100 percent fruit juice equals one serving of fruit. Remember, though, juice lacks the fiber and other nutrients of whole fruit. Although a reasonable amount of fruit juice each day is fine for most children, be sure to offer your child whole fruit as well.

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