Once and for all: is juice good for our kids or not? Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson sets the record straight.
Higher sweetened beverage intake, such as fruit juices, at age 5 years was linked to more body fat during the
following 10 years, Dr. Laura Fiorito, at The Pennsylvania State
University in University Park, found.
Is it really as bad as all that? Should we not even be packing a juice box in our kids' lunch?! We asked pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson whether fruit juice should really be nixed from our kids' diet. Here's what she has to say:
First, know what you're dealing with:
- "100% juice" is squeezed from the fruit; it includes vitamins and minerals, but misses the fiber.
- "Juice drinks" take 100% juice, dilute them with water, and then add sweeteners like sugar or sugar alternatives; much of the nutritional value is lost, and what's left is often a high-calorie drink.
- Labels are famously unclear, making claims about "health" and "nature" while really containing a product that is unhealthful: "cocktails," "punches," "drinks," and "beverages" all mean that sugar has been added.
Is there anything redeeming -- even healthy -- about juice?
- Fruit purées are as good as taking a bite of the whole fruit.
- Though 100% juices have more calories than the actual fruit and lack fiber, they still provide essential vitamins and minerals.
- Recent data has shown that 100% fruit juice consumption is not related to children becoming overweight.
Here's the bottom line:
As with most things in life, the whole is better for you than the parts. If you are choosing between a piece of fresh fruit and a glass of juice, opt for the actual fruit. It has more fiber and fewer calories.
But when it comes to fruit drinks, here's where you want to make a real effort to find the healthiest alternative.
- Look for "100% juice" on the label.
- Avoid "beverages," "cocktails," "drinks," and "punches."
- If your child is willing, choose water or milk over any kind of juice.
- Perhaps most important, don't pass off dessert
drinks as healthy -- smoothies may provide a good load of vitamins and
minerals, but they are drenched in ice cream or frozen yogurt or syrup
sweeteners, making them treats rather than daily staples of health.
|Dr. Cara Natterson, a graduate of Harvard University and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and author of "Your Toddler: Head To Toe," is a pediatrician and mother of 2. She is working on her forthcoming book, "Dangerous or Safe?"|