By Leigh Ann Dutton, Contributing Writer
It’s everywhere. The idea that children should drink fruit juice regularly.
On a hot summer day at the beach, we’re surrounded by children consuming fruit juice from boxes.
At a family picnic, the squirt juices are on ice waiting for the children to lift the cooler lid and twist off the top.
Restaurants offer apple juice or orange juice without fail, and Grandmaw always has it on hand when we visit.
The idea that fruit juice is a good way to get healthy vitamins and minerals into children while hydrating them is a myth, and here’s why …
Why Juice Isn’t Healthy
1. High in Sugar
Most of the fruit juices you buy in the grocery store are loaded with sugar. Even if you opt for the “no sugar added” options, your child is still consuming sugar.
When you juice a piece of fruit, you’re left with concentrated fructose – naturally occurring sugar. Our bodies treat sugar as sugar whether it’s fructose or sucrose.
The sugar in fruit juices causes your blood sugar to spike giving you a burst of energy, but once the sugar is stored your levels plummet leaving you tired and cranky.
When we consume fruit straight from the source, the fiber is there to help slow the absorption of sugar into our bodies. This means that eating an apple is far better for our children’s bodies than drinking apple juice from a box.
2. Filled with Empty Calories
Fruit juices are high in calories, yet they do nothing to nourish the body. Fruit juices are mostly empty calories. Because they contain so many calories, our children grow full quickly and cease to desire real food that will actually aid in the development of their bodies.
In addition, most fruit juices are pasteurized, going through a heating process to ensure all bacteria is eliminated. What nutritional value the fruit juice had has now been cooked out of the juice, which means the manufacturer probably has to add back in vitamins that were stripped, which leads to reason number three.
3. Contains Unwanted Ingredients
If you don’t choose 100% fruit juice, then you’re also choosing high fructose corn syrup (or some other artificial sweetener), artificial colors, fake flavorings, and the list goes on – arsenic anyone?
Plus since the juice is pasteurized and devoid of nutrients, the manufacturer adds in synthetic forms of the vitamins that were killed off but required to be in the juice.
Phew. That’s a mouthful!
The bottom line is that when we process anything, we mess with a good thing and end up worse off than when we started.
4. Increases Cravings
Finally, regular fruit juice consumption increases children’s cravings for sweet foods and drinks. It’s just the way sugar works.
Let’s summarize all this really quickly.
What is fruit juice?
And if you don’t choose the right fruit juice, sometimes chemicals and other unwanted ingredients.
In all truth, fruit juice is liquid candy and should be treated as such when it comes to allowing our children to consume it on a regular basis.
So what do my kids drink instead of juice?
It sounds boring, but water is essential to health. Because my kids have always been offered water, they really don’t balk at the option and drink plenty of it throughout the day.
We like to add whole fruit to our water to flavor it and make it a little more interesting, especially in the summer.
Recently we’ve had to turn to nut milks since we suspected that our youngest was having a hard time with dairy. Turns out he wasn’t, so we’ll be sourcing raw milk again.
However, when we were buying almond milk, we made sure to buy it without carageenan added in.
Just remember that not all milk is created equal.
Kombucha is a favorite in our house! Both of my boys freely enjoy kombucha as often as they want.
It’s a great fermented drink that helps populate the gut with all sorts of goodness!
You can offer milk kefir or water kefir. Both are very good for you!
Oddly enough both of my boys love milk kefir. They drink it plain or flavored with fruit, whatever I have on hand. My husband and I don’t care for it as a drink, but they love it.
Kefir is full of probiotics that aid in digestion, boost immunity, and more. So much more! Plus it is inexpensive to make yourself, and if you’re like my husband and me, then you can hide it in other things.
5. Coconut water
Coconut water is a great alternative to fruit juice (or sports drinks). Coconut water is super hydrating and full of vitamins and minerals!
6. Herbal teas
Herbal teas are another favorite drink that my children consume year round. You can find three of our favorite summer herbal teas here.
Do my kids ever consume fruit juice?
They do on occasion drink fruit juice. However, they understand that fruit juice is a treat, not a staple.
At home, we only drink fruit juice that we make ourselves in the juicer. Our favorite juice contains carrots, beets, and apples. So good!
The only juice we buy from the store is orange juice, and we only keep it on hand to help make our daily dose of cod liver oil a little more palatable. We only pour a couple of tablespoons into the glass with our cod liver oil.
When we’re out and about, especially with family and friends, we allow our children to drink a juice box every now and then. And then this only applies to our babies once they are weaned. If they are still nursing, it’s just Mama!
For us, juice falls under our grace-filled approach to real food. It’s a fun treat, but it’s not a staple.
Do you let your kids drink juice? If you make sure your children don’t drink juice everyday, what are some juice alternatives that they enjoy?
Other articles worth reading:
All About Sugar @ Keeper of the Home
Juice Makes You Pee Your Pants (and other reasons not to drink it) @ Kitchen Stewardship
Why I Don’t Give My Kids Juice @ Hollywood Homestead
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