Children’s excessive consumption of juice has been linked to an increased risk of weight gain, cavities, blood pressure, cholesterol and hyperactivity. So why are we feeding our kids this stuff?
Most consumers think 100% fruit juices are healthy, but the lunchbox staple is not a good beverage choice. Juice has little nutritional value and, like most cold-pressed juices, will spike blood sugar levels and create a craving for more sugar.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that children and adolescents receive 10-15% of their total calories from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juice – and that is way too high!
Pediatricians recommend parents monitor their child’s sugar intake closely, even urging them to not give any sugar to children under 2 years old. Excess sugar not only affects growth and development but has an impact on cognitive behavior as well.
The Yale School of Public Health studied the effects of sugar-sweetened beverages on over 1,600 middle school children and concluded that for every sugar-sweetened drink consumed, hyperactivity and inattention increased by 14%. Excess sugar consumption has also been linked to the growing number of children affected by ADHD, however, the science is still inconclusive.
We may assume our kids get added nutrients when drinking 100% fruit juice, but we’d be mistaken. When producers make fruit juices, the juice gets pasteurized so it can last longer on grocery store shelves. Pasteurization is required by law to kill any harmful bacteria and/or microorganisms that may be present, however, it can a negative effect on some of the vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants. Vitamin C and B1, for example, are sensitive to heat damage.
Childhood Obesity is a BIG PROBLEM
Want to know another consideration for not drinking juice? Sugary beverages are one of the leading contributors to America’s obesity epidemic. Nutritionists believe that most children who drink their servings of fruit will be more likely to snack on other sugary treats, whereas those who eat their fruit will feel satisfied.
“Children’s excessive consumption of juice has been linked to an increased risk of weight gain, shorter stature, and cavities. Even in the absence of weight gain, sugar consumption worsens blood pressure and increases cholesterol.” (New York Times)
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children affected by obesity has more than tripled since 1970. The average child consumes 19 teaspoons of sugar a day – that’s the equivalent of two 12 oz. cans of Coca-Cola! The American Heart Association recommends that children ages 2-18 should limit their sugar intake to only 6 teaspoons a day. They further recommend that children should not drink more than one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage per week.
100% Real? Look closely at the label!
Juice companies market to both children and parents. For instance, while Honest Kids Organic Apple Juice may advertise that it contains ½ the sugar than other labels, each 6oz pouch has 8 grams of sugar. That alone is a significant contributor to a child’s daily recommended sugar allowance!
The Bottom Line:
Fruit juices are not a good choice for the lunchbox. Encourage your family to eat whole fruits instead. If you decide to give your kids juice, substitute half the juice with water to dilute the sugar content.