by Matt Weik
What if I told you the juice boxes and fruit juices you give your kids contain poison? You’d be pretty upset, right? In fact, you’d probably stop using those products all together, correct? Well, get ready for the hard truth. While you might be thinking you are giving your kids a healthy option over other drinks such as those containing caffeine like sodas, there’s a very high percentage that what you are giving them could be just as bad if not worse.
You can think of sugar as a drug—the more you have of it, the more you want. Ingesting something high in sugar spikes glucose levels which in turn will increase insulin production. The influx of insulin that lingers in the system creates a craving mechanism leaving you wanting more sugar. As you can imagine, this all leads to a cyclical pattern.
So where does the “poison” part come into play? Poison in this case ends up being sugar. Without even knowing it, 16% of your child’s daily caloric intake could be coming from sugar. The World Health Organization has set guidelines that recommends that only 5% of an individual’s total caloric intake should come from sugars. Many parents go grocery shopping and pick up juice boxes or fruit juice for their kids thinking it is healthy when in fact it contains an insane of sugar. There’s a logical reason why you find your kids will drink those items more than water—the sugar makes them taste good. The old saying if it tastes good, it’s probably not good for you rings true. Just because the label says “100 percent juice,” “no sugar added,” or “organic” doesn’t mean it’s good for you or them. It’s deceptive advertising to get you to purchase their product. On average, most people will underestimate the sugar content in fruit juices by around 48%.
What can sugar do to a child?
• Increase the chance of obesity
• Increase the chance of diabetes
• Increase the chance of tooth decay
• Increase the risk of heart disease
• Can cause cold/allergy-like symptoms
• Can weaken the immune system
• Can lead to behavioral problems due to sugar-sensitivity
Pediatrician Barbara Frankowski, M.D. advises the following age-by-age limits for consumption of fruit juices:
• No fruit juice for babies under 6 months
• No more than 6 ounces a day for babies 6 months to 1 year
• No more than 6 ounces a day for kids 1 to 6
• No more than 12 ounces a day for kids over 6
The Mayo Clinic breaks it down even further as teaspoons and calories of sugar in the chart below found on their website.
So what can be done to help keep your kids healthy while giving them something they will drink? Stop giving them those juice boxes/drinks all together. Or if you MUST give it to them (whatever your excuse is), then dilute it with water. It would still give the taste of the beverage (while muted slightly) that they are used to, while cutting back on the overall sugar content as well as allowing the fruit juice/drink to last longer—stretching out your dollar. Even sports drinks marketed by some of your kid’s favorite athletes are nothing more than sugar water with some electrolytes thrown in. You can just as easily take water and add fruit to it in order to give it natural flavoring and give them the same benefits as the sugary drinks they are accustomed to drinking every day without all of the empty calories that come along with them.
Make this healthy journey fun for your kids. Include them in the process. Show them that you’re taking water, cutting up fresh fruit and allow them to get hands on to make it seem fun. Let them help cut up the fruit (if they are old enough or responsible). Or worst case scenario, have them put the fruit in the cup or container after you cut it up. If they are part of the experience and think it’s fun, the more willing they will be to not only drink it, but ask for it over the unhealthy alternatives. This also gives you the ability to begin teaching them about healthy choices. The more they can understand and comprehend, the more they will adhere. And please don’t be one of those parents who are a “do as I say not as I do” role model and tell your kids not to drink a juice box while you’re eating a bag of potato chips and gulping down a soda. You yourself should be looking at the choices you make for your own nutrition as kids will follow what they see their parents doing. If you are always drinking a soda, they will think that’s a good choice and want to drink soda too. Making wise nutritional choices for yourself just doesn’t affect you, but also those around you—so be aware of your choices and actions.
More companies these days are becoming conscious of the ingredients in their products, but you can’t count on them to always have your health in the forefront of their mind—after all, they want you to consume/drink their product because it tastes good so you continue to purchase. Some companies are even making smaller portions of their normal sized product in hopes that in doing so a consumer wouldn’t ingest as much sugar, considering it a healthier option compared to their normal size and still make a purchase with their brand. For example, think of a normal 12-ounce soda and then the newer mini-cans that come in at 7.5 ounces. In theory that might make sense, but if a consumer is used to drinking a certain amount of liquid at a sitting or meal, that smaller can of soda might turn into two or three cans before they are done with a meal. This in the end could have them drinking even more than they were normally consuming before changing portion sizes.
Another thing to consider is that “big brother” is keeping an eye on things. And while the government makes a lot of money off of sugar-filled products, they are also looking at health trends due to the poor American diet. There might just come a time in the very near future when the government will step in and regulate the amount of sugar a company can put into a product based off its serving size.
Hopefully the above was an eye-opener to what we need to do in order to protect our children. The choices we make on their behalf need to be nutritionally sound. Now how many of you will be rushing to your fridge or pantry to look at the nutrition labels of the products you are giving your kids? This doesn’t have to be JUST beverages; this is just a small piece of the issue at hand. Use this as guide for your child’s health and make sure you are giving them healthy options. They depend on you to keep them healthy since at this stage they really don’t know any better. Make the change today for you, for your family, and for the future.