There is some common sense creeping into the daily discussions about diet and health in this country. Scientists are now starting to talk about the impact of feeding large amounts of fruit juice to kids for example. Juice has been promoted as a healthier alternative to soda for kids. It may be better but marginally so. Juice is concentrated calories and contains large amounts of sugar. Just ½ cup of apple juice has 60 calories, the same as a whole apple, but the juice does not contain the fiber that makes the fruit filling. Studies have shown that consuming juice does not reduce the amount of calories consumed in foods, but adds additional calories to daily consumption, which in turn, contributes to obesity.
In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines that stated that children under 6 months should not be given juice and that there is no reason any of them should have it before the age of 1. After that, juice should be optional, with only 4-6 ounces per day for kids up to 6 years old and no more than 8-12 ounces for older children. The consumption of whole produce is favored in the guidelines over juice.
Despite these guidelines, 60% of one-year olds drink an average of 11.5 ounces per day, and 39% of children under the age of one are drinking juice daily, according to a 2002 USDA report.
The excessive consumption of juice by children is relatively recent. 50 years ago, milk and water were the primary beverages for children. According to Dr. David Ludwig, an expert on pediatric obesity at Children’s Hospital in Boston, “What is needed to replace fluid loss and satisfy thirst is the same beverage we’ve been drinking for millions of years and that’s water.”
Children consume about 25% of the juice marketed in this country, so, as you might imagine, the juice industry is very concerned. Carol Freysinger, executive director of the Juice Producers Association, says that when doctors criticize juice, it gives a bad name to a healthy beverage and could prevent people from getting the great nutrients offered by juice.
Some doctors are starting to acknowledge that giving kids juice teaches them to prefer sweet foods and beverages, and that high calorie beverages do not have a place in a healthy child”s diet. Dr. William Dietz, with the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that thirst is satisfied with water, hunger is satisfied with solid food, and that caloric beverages interfere with this and blur the line.
Although this advice is bad for the juice industry, it’s great advice for kids!