As parents, we want to do our best by our children. We nurse them or buy the right formula, we make sure they’re warm when they sleep, and we hold and rock them when they’re sick.
We also strive to feed them a healthy diet full of vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats so they grow strong and smart. However, fruit juice to drink, laden with sugar and calories, is often offered to otherwise healthy kids. Whether you’re doing it because that’s what your parents fed you or because you can’t get them to drink anything else, now is the time to stop.
Here’s why fruit juice is a bad idea for children.
- Fruit Juice is Full of Calories: Fruit and vegetable juices are generally made from concentrated liquid that comes from the fruit. Juices, even from vegetables, contain sugar and calories but are devoid of fibers. Unlike eating a single piece of fruit, with less sugar, more fiber, and plenty of other nutrients, fruit juice is more concentrated and lacks the nutritious fiber that aids digestion. Drinking lots of fruit juice, even if you eat an otherwise healthy diet, can lead to problems associated with excess calories such as weight gain.
- Fruit Juice is a Sweet: Give a toddler a sweet and they don’t want anything else you place in front of them. Offering fruit juice instead of water means that your child will reach for the juice and fill up on sugar instead of eating the healthier foods you’ve presented. A high concentration of sugar can also be difficult for a child to digest, causing stomach problems and diarrhea. Offering water instead gives them something to drink when they’re thirsty but makes sure they fill up on solid foods.
- Fruit Juice is Acidic: Combine the sugar with the acidity of fruit juice and you’ve got a recipe for problems when you visit the dentist. Cavities and tooth decay can start from sugar sitting on the gums long before babies have their first tooth and can cause problems with teeth coming in. Make sure you start brushing your children’s teeth regularly as soon as they appear to help keep them healthy and their smile white.
If your child is an infant, breast milk is the best liquid for them to drink. You can also offer infants formula to help them stay full and happy. For toddlers, you can continue to breastfeed and offer them water to drink along with the solids they’re starting to eat. Toddlers also love full-fat cow’s milk, although it is best served in moderation. For older children, water is best.
If you want to help your child drink more water and eat healthier, then you should start doing so yourself. Especially for toddlers and young children, what their mother has on her plate is certain to be the best food around and they want to be just like you. If your child is already drinking too much sugar, start reducing the amount they are offered by watering down their drinks until they’re only getting a little flavor and not a lot of sugar.