We know that feeding your kids only healthy foods is easier said than done — especially for parents with picky eaters. Sometimes, you just have to compromise.
Plus, who doesn’t need a little treat now and then?
For many parents, fruit juice is one of those compromises. Kids love it, and it must be better for them than soda, right?
Sadly, fruit juice isn’t as healthy as it appears to be. Below we’ll explore why you should skip the juice, and offer some delicious and healthy alternatives that we promise your kids will enjoy just as much — maybe even more!
The Truth About Fruit Juice
It’s easy to assume fruit juice is a healthy drink to give your children. It’s made from fruit, after all!
But you might be surprised at the changes fruit goes through once it’s juiced — changes that make it not as healthy as you might think.
Juicing Eliminates Fiber
Raw fruit has a ton of ingredients that are great for our health. Fiber, for example, is found in most fruit, and helps us properly absorb important nutrients.
Fiber also helps regulate your digestive system by feeding the good bacteria in your gut, which helps reduce bad bacteria that can cause long-term health problems like obesity and even cancer.
The process of juicing removes the fiber in fruit, so you don’t get the same benefits as when you eat whole fruit.
That means when kids have fruit juice instead of fruit, they aren’t absorbing all the vitamins and nutrients in it. They’re also missing out on the digestive and immune benefits that make fruit so good for them.
Juicing Releases Sugars
In addition to eliminating fiber, juicing releases all the sugars from the fruit being juiced.
Normally, the sugar content in fruit isn’t a huge concern, because the fiber in whole fruit helps your body balance out the sugar by processing it properly. It helps slow the absorption of the sugar in your body while making you feel full, which helps eliminate cravings for more.
But once juicing breaks down the fiber, the effects of the sugar are increased. It becomes more addictive, and you don’t feel full when you drink it.
This can cause overdoing it on fruit juice and other sugary drinks that your kids might come across later in the day, which can eventually contribute to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, or diabetes.
Not all juices are created equal — some are more sugary than others. For example, a fruity beverage like Hawaiian Fruit Punch has much more sugar than 100% pure fruit juice, like apple or cranberry juice.
Some drinks are also more acidic than others — like lemonade — and these acidic drinks plays a part in wearing away your child’s tooth enamel, too.
Fruit Juice Can Cause Cavities
The sugars in fruit juice are also harmful to your children’s teeth. From the time their first tooth sprouts, it’s important to keep their teeth and gums clean and healthy. Part of this process is making sure your kids don’t eat or drink too much sugar.
Sugar tends to mix with bacteria and saliva in their mouth, creating the perfect storm for plaque. Plaque leads to cavities, which can then lead to — you guessed it — tooth decay.
Tooth decay is harmful to children of any age. It can cause early tooth loss, which leads to crowding. It can also put your kids at higher risk of health issues in the future, like diabetes or heart disease.
Be careful to not extend your child’s exposure to sugary drinks by giving them a bottle of juice to sip on hours at a time, and avoid giving kids juice right before bed without brushing. Make sure your child brushes their teeth right after they eat or drink anything sugary, just like you would with candy.
The main takeaway? When it comes to your child’s health, everything should be in moderation — especially sugary foods and drinks. We know your child may not give up juice entirely, but being mindful about how much they’re drinking and cutting back is certainly better than nothing.
Healthy Fruit Juice Alternatives
If you’re looking to avoid keeping another sugary food in your child’s diet, you’re in luck! There are other tasty options they’ll likely enjoy just as much.
Typically, vegetable juice has a lot less sugar and a bit more fiber than fruit juice, making it a much better choice. Tomato juice, for example, helps lower the risk of future diseases. And carrot juice is packed with nutrients that helps kids maintain healthy eyesight, muscle health, and more.
Naturally-flavored fruit water allows your children to get creative and enjoy the fruits of their labor! (Get it?)
Have your kids combine their favorite fruits and herbs in filtered water, and let it sit for a couple hours to soak up the flavor. Tasty combinations like cucumber and mint, or strawberries with lemon are always a hit.
Need to mix things up? Grab your child a coconut water with no added sugar.
Coconut water is packed with helpful vitamins like potassium, plus electrolytes. It’s a great replacement for sugary sports drinks.
Tea party, anyone?
Some kids will enjoy the flavors of caffeine-free, healthy, kid-safe iced teas, like peppermint or chamomile. You can even make peach-lavender tea with no added sugar!
- Boil 4 cups of water and add a few tablespoons of dried lavender. Be sure the lavender hasn’t been cured with pesticides, as some decorative lavender has harmful chemicals.
- Strain the water after 5 minutes.
- Drizzle 1/2 cup of honey over 4 chopped peaches, pour the lavender water over them and muddle it a bit.
This is one you’ll probably want to get in on yourself, so make a little extra while you’re at it.
Smoothies are all the fun and flavor of fruit juice, without taking away the fiber or important nutrients. Plus, you can add all the healthy ingredients you want, which makes it a great way to sneak in some veggies and added protein, too.
Mix in yummy veggies and low-sugar fruits, like pears and apples. Spinach, for example, is packed with nutrients and isn’t super noticeable when mixed with other flavors.
You can also include Greek yogurt for calcium and probiotics and to make your smoothie smooth and creamy.
California Kids Dental Care Experts Share Tips On Teeth-Healthy Snack Ideas
Fruit juice might not be all that it’s cracked up to be. It doesn’t contain the nutrients that you many have thought it did growing up, and the amount of sugar just doesn’t make it a worthwhile drink for you or your child’s health.
Luckily, there are plenty of creative, tasty ways to replace fruit juice. Nature has many flavorful and healthy offerings, and when you add the right twist, they can be just as satisfying as fruit juice.