This is timely. I was just thinking about writing a blog post about kids and their drink choices when I came across this article in the Ottawa Citizen about how fruit juice may be dropped from Canada’s food guide as a healthy choice. The article illustrates two sides of the argument: on one hand, fruit juice does contain certain vitamins like vitamin C, folate and potassium, which makes it perhaps a better choice than straight soda or fruit punch. On the other hand, drinking a couple of cups of juice every day could comprise a quarter or up to half of a child’s caloric requirements – with questionable nutritional benefit.
I know from my own ongoing research into the healthiest food choices for myself and the family that you should in general try to avoid drinking your calories. There’s no doubt that eating an orange is a better overall choice than drinking a 125ml box of pure orange juice. But is it reasonable to ask kids to drink mostly water? And is an apple going to quench thirst like a cup of apple juice?
I’m not too worried about the amount of juice the kids consume. A juice box in the lunchbox (gasp! I know, but I’m picking my battles) and a half a cup of apple juice at dinner don’t seem to be too unreasonable to me, even if they will add 100 or so “empty” calories. But as the boys get older, what I’m wondering about is the choice between sugary pop and the chemicals in diet soda. We’re aiming to be an ‘all things in moderation’ sort of household, so I don’t want to ban pop entirely, and I want the boys to (a) make reasonable choices and (b) be able to choose things that they find yummy and satisfying sometimes. While I don’t love the idea of them drinking 150 calories of sugar in a can of soda, I think the aspartame and other crap in diet soda could be worse for their growing bodies. Personally, whenever I can I avoid aspartame in everything except chewing gum, which usually means I’m choosing the full fat and full sugar versions of any product over the “lite” low calorie or low fat options. Sugar may be evil, but I’m convinced that artificial sweeteners are worse.
What do you think? Given a choice between the evils of sugar and the evils of artificial sweeteners, which one do you think is more harmful, even on an occasional basis?