Original Article

Variation in Fruit Juice Consumption Among Infants and Toddlers: Associations with WIC Participation

Authors: James T. McElligott, MD, MS, James R. Roberts, MD, MPH, Eliza A. Varadi, MD, Elizabeth S. O’Brien, RN, Katherine D. Freeland, BS, William T. Basco, Jr, MD, MS


Objectives: Juice is a common component of a child’s diet. Excessive juice consumption may lead to adverse nutritional and dental outcomes. The objective of the study was to evaluate consumption patterns and parental perception regarding juice in a sample of children from families participating or not participating in Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) services.

Methods: Parents of children aged 12 months to 5 years completed a survey consisting of questions about beverage intake and related opinions. Practices were selected to provide a mix of families who do and do not use WIC services. Comparisons were made by WIC use and by quantity of juice consumption.

Results: Of 173 surveys, 51% of participants had received benefits from the WIC program. Overall, children who drank larger quantities of fruit juice drank less milk. One-third of all of the parents who responded to the survey reported that they believed that juice was at least as healthy as fresh fruit, with WIC parents reporting this belief more often (56% vs 9%; P < 0.01) than non-WIC parents. Two-thirds of all of the parents surveyed (66%) introduced juice before their child reached age 12 months, and this was more likely in WIC families (78% vs 54%; P < 0.05). Overall, 81% would prefer to receive fresh fruit as part of the WIC package.

Conclusions: Higher juice consumption is associated with decreased milk consumption. Many parents expressed a belief that juice was at least as healthful as fresh fruit. Being a WIC recipient was associated with an earlier introduction of juice into a child’s diet and a greater perception that juice was healthful.

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