Guidelines for Giving Kids Fruit Juice

Boy at table, drinking orange juice

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Fruit juice seems like it's a staple in many kids' diets—and that's a concern, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Citing the role juice plays in childhood obesity and tooth decay, the organization pushed the "start time" for juice from age 6 months to 1 year when they released updated recommendations in 2017. Avoiding or at least limiting juice is still preferred.

While there are a lot of other more important dangers to your child's health, drinking too much fruit juice can be a problem. In addition to the role juice can play in weight gain and cavities, it can also contribute to diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems, such as excessive gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Recommended Daily Amounts

The AAP still prefers that kids age 1 and older drink only milk and water, but provides the following recommendations should you choose to give your child juice.

Age Amount of 100% Juice
Infants less than 1 year old None (except for a small amount if constipated)
1 to 3 years old 4 ounces or less per day
4 to 6 years old Up to 6 ounces per day
7 to 18 years old No more than 8 ounces per day
  • If you give your child juice, it should be 100% pasteurized fruit juice and not fruit drinks.
  • Instead of juice, children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits and drink milk or water.

Drawbacks of Juice

The AAP suggests limiting juice because it can contribute to weight gain, cavities, and some gastrointestinal issues. One of the other main problems with drinking too much juice is that it is filling and will decrease your child's appetite for other more nutritious foods. While your child will still get a lot of calories from juice, they will mostly be from sugars or carbohydrates and lack sufficient protein and fiber, which can contribute to a poorly balanced diet.

Also, fruit juices generally don't have a lot of vitamins and nutrients, although they do have vitamin C, and some are fortified with calcium. Also, if your child is drinking a lot of juice, then they probably aren't drinking much milk, which is a good source of calcium and other vitamins and nutrients.

Drinking too much juice may decrease your child's appetite for other more nutritious foods. Make sure your child is eating a balanced diet before you give them more juice.

Delayed Introduction

Waiting to introduce your child to juice is one way to prevent related problems, as those who have it early may become accustomed to it—and ask for it often. When you do give your child juice, opt for a regular, open cup, not a bottle or sippy cup/water bottle. The latter options make it all too easy to drink juice quickly and constantly.

Not only does this increase consumption, which means added calories, but it can cause teeth to constantly have sugar sitting on them, which can cause oral health concerns. To prevent your child's cups from becoming security objects, restrict their use to meals, or when you offer milk and snacks. (We know the appeal of "no spill" cups can be hard for parents to let go of, too.)

Does Your Child Need to Cut Back?

In general, if your child is eating a well-balanced diet, including some fresh fruits and vegetables; is eating dairy products and drinking 16 to 24 ounces of liquids a day; and doesn't have problems with cavities or being overweight, then they likely don't have a "juice problem," even if you are exceeding the AAP limits.

If your child is exceeding the AAP limits and is a picky eater; has a poorly balanced diet or cavities, diarrhea, or chronic abdominal pain; or if they are overweight, then you should consider taking steps to limit their intake of juice.

Fruit Juice vs. Whole Fruits

If your child refuses to eat fruit, you can on occasion offer fruit juice as one way to help them get their daily recommended servings. Per the US Department of Agriculture's MyPlate guidelines, those are: 1 cup/day (for kids 2 to 3 years old); 1 to 1 1/2 cups per day (for kids from 4 to 18 years old). 

Still, it is important to remember that the recommended servings of fruit juice are actually limits. Your child does not need to drink any fruit juice, especially if they are reaching the above MyPlate targets by eating whole fruits.

It's also important to continue to offer and encourage your child to eat fresh fruit. Aside from being the best option nutritionally, they get fiber from eating fresh fruit that they won't receive from drinking juice.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no fruit juice for children under 1 year.

  2. Heyman MB, Abrams SA. Fruit juice in infants, children, and adolescents: Current recommendations. Pediatrics. 2017;139(6) doi:10.1542/peds.2017-0967

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.