Offering children 100 percent fruit juice rather than carbonated or other sweetened beverages is a long-standing nutrition recommendation.Some parents may, however, be offering too much juice, says Sandy Procter, Kansas State University Research and Extension nutrition educator.

Too much fruit juice

The way in which the juice is served also can be troublesome for children, says Procter, a registered dietitian and coordinator of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program in the state.

"While 100 percent fruit juice will not have added sugars, it does have natural sugars that can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria that will damage teeth," she says.

"Plan to serve juice once a day, rather than throughout the day," says Procter, who recommends using a cup, rather than a baby bottle or sippy cup that parents or caregivers sometimes allow children to carry around with them. That can prolong contact with the potentially damaging sugars.

Offering too much juice or opportunities for non-stop consumption may contribute to poor dental health, diminish the appetite for other foods and beverages that offer health benefits and may contribute to childhood obesity, Procter says. Milk, which offers bone-building calcium, and water needed to hydrate the body may be shortchanged when too much juice is offered.

"Juice boxes offer measured portions, but parents can do the same," says Procter who noted that a half cup measure is equal to four ounces.

As a general rule, she recommended serving 4 ounces (for babies and young children) to 6 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice most days to supplement solid fruits such as sliced apples, peaches or pears or berries that typically offer more fiber and health-promoting nutrients.

Dietary recommendations for children include a variety of foods served in moderation.

Variety is important because different foods offer different health- promoting compounds. Moderation is key to health and weight management, Procter says.

For more information on choosing and preparing health-promoting foods for children, contact the local K-State Research and Extension office or check Extension's web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu and click on health and nutrition.

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