I've heard that fruit juice is a good source of vitamins but that it can contribute to obesity. Is it OK to give my child fruit juice?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Certain types of fruit juice can be a healthy part of your child's diet after age 1.

Research suggests that drinking small 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 juice cocktails. While 100 percent fruit juice and sweetened fruit drinks might have similar calorie counts, your child will get more nutrients and fewer additives from 100 percent juice.

To ensure your child isn't drinking too much juice, consider these limits:

  • Birth to 12 months. No fruit juice, unless it's used to relieve constipation.
  • 1 to 3 years. Up to 4 ounces (118 milliliters) a day. To prevent tooth decay, serve juice in a cup (not a bottle) and avoid allowing your child to drink the juice over a long period of time. Don't give your child juice at bedtime.
  • 4 to 6 years. Up to 4 to 6 ounces (118 to 177 milliliters) a day.
  • 7 to 18 years. Up to 8 ounces (237 milliliters) a day or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit servings a day.

One cup of 100 percent fruit juice equals 1 cup of fruit. Juice lacks the fiber of whole fruit, however, and can be consumed more quickly. Although a small amount of fruit juice each day is fine for most children, remember that whole fruit is a better option.

May 26, 2017