Put Down the Juice

All parents want to make healthy choices for their kids, keeping candy and soft drinks to a minimum is an obvious way to do that. However, sugar still is sneaking into children’s diets, and it’s disguising itself in the most wholesome way possible. “I have parents come in all the time who say ‘we don’t allow soda in our house, just 100% juice,” says Cindy Gellner, a pediatrician with University of Utah Health Care. “Those drinks are still 100% sugar.”

A new survey from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut reflects what Gellner is seeing in her practice. It finds that 96% of parents gave their children a sugary drink in the past month. It also found that many believe fruit drinks, sports drinks, and flavored waters are “healthy” options for kids. Gellner says that couldn’t be further from the truth. “Parents are being lured in by labels promising a ‘natural’ drink or ‘Vitamin C’ and not reading the labels,” she says. “Many of the most popular drinks, Capri Sun for example, have high fructose corn syrup.”

Gellner says it is all about moderation. “These drinks, yes, even pure juice, should be special treats,” Gellner says. “No kid should be drinking them on a daily basis.” She also says the serving size is important. “Remember, these are calories purely from sugar,” she says. “It’s best to keep the serving around 80 calories.”

So, what should parents give to thirsty kids? “Water is the best choice,” Gellner says. “Low fat milk is also a good option.” And for kids who want a fruity fix? “Give them a piece of fruit,” she says. “A whole piece of fruit is a much better option than juice. Then kids are getting the full nutritional benefit, and not just the sugar.” 

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