What do you think about serving fruit juice to kids? Is it healthy?
Pure 100% fruit juice—with no added sugar— is a healthy choice. Orange juice, for example, is a good source of vitamin C, and it is now possible to find calcium- and vitamin D–fortified orange juice. When ascorbic acid is added to apple juice, it also becomes a good C source. However, there’s more than just vitamin C in the average juice box (about 6.75 ounces): it also has about 100 calories and 18 grams of sugar—the equivalent of more than four teaspoons! And, fruit juice doesn’t contain the dietary fiber that the whole fruit does to keep the digestive tract in tip-top-shape.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting daily juice intake as follows: for children one to six years old: 4–6 ounces; for children seven to eighteen years old: 8–12 ounces. (Note that these are limits; there is no daily recommended amount for juice or sugar, as I’ve written about before.) At HealthBarn USA I serve kids no more than half a cup of 100% juice as an energy booster before heading out to work in the garden. We also use it in moderation as a natural sweetener in some of our recipes, such as smoothies.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce juice consumption, here are some tips:
- If a child is thirsty, always offer water first, then low-fat milk or nondairy alternative.
- Teach your child that juice is an occasional drink (perhaps limited to breakfast), not one to be sipped all day long.
- Offer fruit juice in a cup at home, rather than packing juice boxes for snack or lunch.
- Offer whole fruit instead of juice. The vitamin content may be similar, but juice offers no dietary fiber.
- Use whole fruit in smoothies to get all the benefits of whole fruit in a drinkable form.
- Dilute juice with ice cold seltzer for a fizzy treat—and treat it as a treat.
What puzzles you about keeping your family healthy? Tell us what’s on your mind by emailing [email protected]. Stacey will answer those questions here weekly.