Is fruit juice bad for kids?

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?

4:365 Club soda

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?

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian, blogger, portrait photographer, government social media strategist, mom to 3 boys, inveterate storyteller, professional dilettante.

6 thoughts on “Is fruit juice bad for kids?”

  1. NO drink diet drinks in this house……. a big yuck to artificial sweeteners. I will take sugar any day.

    On that note, my older son drinks juice and is allowed the occasional pop (which he loooooves) but my younger son is more of the juice drinker. I know they are both full of sugar, but I figure everything in moderation 🙂

    funny enough (and a bit selfishly)I limit my own intake of pop/juice more because of the calories!! vanity.

  2. Definitely artificial sweeteners are worse, I’m convinced. Although I would love to be a moderation family, Youngest seems to keep pushing us to extremes. Our dietician suspects that he is sensitive to blood sugar changes, so we have to be very strict with his sugar intake, even natural sugars in fruit and honey. She said no juice or sweet drinks, and to only give him fruit (and only small portions — e.g., a third of an apple is one serving for him!) with meals. She also said to buffer sweet things with protein. So if he has a treat, we give him a spoonful of almond butter or peanut butter or some meat afterwards to keep his blood sugar down. We don’t give our kids pop yet (it helps that Eldest doesn’t like bubbly drinks) but when we do I think I would take the approach of having them drink smaller amounts at a time and only with meals that have a good amount of protein in them. My concern with sugar for all of us is the spike and then plummet in blood sugar, not the calories. I figure the calories even themselves out…

  3. Both of my kids have one pop a week. Never diet pop mind you and it is usually on a Saturday night when we watch a movie. I know occasionally they get more when they are at someone else’s house or are eating out.

    My son still takes a juice box to school and sometimes has about a half a cup later in the day. I have given up caring about this long ago. I cannot always get him to drink enough water and he doesn’t ever drink milk. Have to keep him hydrated somehow.

  4. My daughter’s school doesn’t allow juice boxes. We have juice as a treat a couple of times a month, and usually it’s the puréed fruit variety rather than something like fruit punch. But it’s easy for me to avoid because I’m allergic to much of what’s available so we just don’t buy it. Used to be that both hubby and I drank a lot of juice (and actually in my 20s I had a roommate that only drank Koolaid so I drank a lot of that too). But then we just stopped buying it and therefore stopped drinking it

    My husband strongly dislikes fizzy drinks. I don’t know if my kids like them or not, but last time we bought some cans (for a party) we discovered that after a few years they will spontaneously explode. The resulting mess hasn’t faded enough to buy more!

    All that to say that we drink water and don’t really miss other stuff – it’s just what we are used to.

  5. I have a small, shameful diet pepsi habit, but I don’t give it to my kids – their one pop a week is full sugar and damn the consequences. We do have juice, but I mix it watery and they add half water to the cup too, so it’s very diluted – my daughter largely prefers water and my son is an athletic machine, so he can use the few extra calories. I don’t drink much juice other than some green stuff in the morning – but I love water and I know not everyone does.

  6. On the topic of whether juice is “bad” for kids, I think there are lots of parenting decisions one can second guess. We all do the best we can, hopefully, taking into account our particular (unique!) kids and their personalities as well as our own parenting styles. No point in banning juice / pop or whatever if that’s something that you drink yourself and are happy to drink / don’t have plans to give up. Or if banning juice means your kid is going to go on to drink nothing else once he or she has own income – we may not have it frequently but we also don’t ever turn down requests (eg if at Grandma’s and it is offered, we will always allow at least one glass, though we might require switching to water after a glass or two).

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