Put the Juice Away.
If you’re like most parents juice boxes seem like the home run of easy parenting. Relatively inexpensive, convenient and seemingly healthy – especially the ones labeled “organic” or “no added sugar” – they are the go to drink to quiet a fussy toddler, pack in a lunch, or reach for on the go. How much harm can there be in a box or cup of juice, or in a can of soda?
Let’s take a look. A typical 6 ounce serving (1 juice box) has 24 grams of sugar, which is equal to 6 teaspoons of sugar. A 12 ounce can of soda has almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. If you take a teaspoon and measure those amounts, it may be shocking to see the volume.
To put this in perspective, the American Heart Association in 2016 made the following recommendations:
- Children over age 2 years should consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar each day.
- Children should not drink more than one 8 ounce sugar-sweetened beverage per week.
- Children under 2 years should avoid consuming any added sugar since they need nutrient-rich diets and are developing taste preferences.
In addition, this year the American Academy of Pediatrics made new updated recommendations about juice. A quick summary:
- Avoid juice (completely) in kids under 1 year of age.
- Limit juice intake to 4 ounces for kids under four, 4 to 6 ounces for kids between ages 4 and 6, and 8 ounces for kids 7 and older. Remember, a typical juice box is about 6 ounces.
- Don’t give toddlers juice from a bottle or sippy cup, and don’t give it to them before bed.
These recommendations come from negative side effects from juice. Juice also significantly increases the risk of tooth decay. Too much juice can result in diarrhea. It can cause unhealthy weight gain and obesity (which leads to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease), and it has very little nutritional value. Some juices contain vitamins A or C, and sometimes added vitamin D and calcium. But with a reasonably balanced diet these nutrients are available just by eating food.
Armed with this information, pediatricians recommend avoiding juice altogether. You can also look for ways to cut back on other sources of added sugar, such as soda and processed food. Check labels for added fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose and sucrose. Substitute real fruit instead of juice with meals or snacks. And water, whether tap, bottled, infused or sparkling, is a choice that can’t be beat.
Make this an easy New Year’s resolution that can have great benefits with no cost, no risks and no added pounds.
by Jane Wilkov, M.D.