For one reason or another, fruit juice has acquired a bad reputation as a source of nutrition for children. In fact, fruit juice is sometimes blamed for the epidemic of obesity that is endangering the lives of our children at an alarming rate.
The truth of the matter, however, is that fruit juice is an excellent source of nutrition for children of all ages and is associated with a better diet and healthier lifestyle in general.
The trick to drinking juice and not gaining excess weight is to make sure the juice your child drinks is 100% fruit juice. And nothing more.
There is little to claim as nutrition in a beverage made of high-fructose corn syrup, other sugars, and food dyes, colors, and additives even when the label reads 100% fruit juice. There may be no more than a drop or two of 100% fruit juice in a can or bottle of a beverage casting the illusion that it’s healthy when, in fact, it isn’t. Advertising pays off in the beverage business and identifying even microscopic quantities of a single healthy ingredient on the label is legal, although misleading, and it makes people feel good about buying it.
There is little or no level of nutrition in these artificially sweetened and chemically flavored beverages. They satisfy no nutritional needs, leaving the child still hungering for the missing nutrients. This leads to excessive hunger, which leads to excessive weight, which leads to a life-long array of medical woes.
Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine recently studied the diets of 3,618 children aged 2 to 11. They found the average child drank 4.1 fluid ounces of 100% juice, or just over half a cup, each day. Four ounces of 100% juice is a nutritional powerhouse, with very few calories, no fat, and no artificial stuff to reverse the nutrient quality. All that for just 58 calories.
According to the Baylor research, the children who drank 100% juice were not more likely to be overweight than children who didn’t drink juice, nor were they more likely to reach for unhealthy foods. Juice-loving children have a tendency to enjoy eating whole fruits and vegetables, too.
Dietary recommendations and guidelines for optimum nutrition during childhood are developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), who recommends children drink 4 to 6 ounces of 100% fruit juice every day until they turn seven years old. At age seven, the AAP recommends doubling intake of 100% fruit juice.