When my stepdaughter was very young, all she drank was apple juice. Like many parents, my husband (boyfriend at the time) thought fruit juice must be healthy because it had “fruit” in the name.
I grew up drinking my fair share of fruit juice, but I just had a feeling that it couldn’t be good for that to be a child’s sole source of hydration. I knew juice had sugar, but I was astonished when I discovered just how much!
Imagine all that sugar just sitting on a child’s teeth all day. Combine that sugar with startling levels of acidity in many “children’s beverages” and you have a recipe for cavities. (Check out this recent article which explains the effect of acid on children’s teeth — it is a real eye-opener!)
When I was pregnant with Annabelle, I decided that I didn’t want her to grow up consuming juice all day long. However, that meant we would have to get Lilu to make the switch to water, so that would be the example her younger sister would learn. The good news — it wasn’t as much of a struggle as I expected!
I started by distinguishing apple juice as a treat. I explained to Lilu that there was a lot of sugar in apple juice, almost as much as some of her favorite desserts, so it wasn’t something she could drink all day. We don’t eat ice cream at every meal after all! I put it in terms she could understand, but still gave her all the important facts, and she was very receptive.
I immediately cut out all juice after lunch. I gave Lilu my reasoning for this: it was better to have more sugar in the morning so she could burn it off as energy throughout the day. Again, I explained it simply, but truthfully, and made sure she felt like she was a part of the decision.
We continued with this pattern for a few weeks. She could have one glass of juice with breakfast, one juice box in her school lunch, but it was all water after that. Lilu embraced the routine — she would ask for juice with dinner, and then gleefully exclaim “just kidding!” She loved being “in” on what was going on and she loved knowing that she was making a healthy choice.
One day I decided that when we ran out of juice I wasn’t going to buy any more. I quietly poured a cup of water with Lilu’s breakfast. She did notice, but simply shrugged when I told her that we had run out of juice, so it was all water that day. She never worried about it after that, and I never bought another jug of juice.
Now it is water at every meal, every day. We do still occasionally serve fruit juice as a treat, and I will admit that I pack a juice box in her school lunch. (I have childhood memories of warm, plastic-y tasting water in a squeeze bottle from my elementary school lunches– bleh!) I think it is actually better to teach children about moderation and a realistic view of nutrition so they are able to make positive choices as adults.
Instead of fruit juice, try:
- Sliced apples dipped in nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew– there are many choices!)
- Banana “boats” with Nutella
- Sliced strawberries with light whipped topping
Eating the whole fruit instead of just the concentrated juice is a much more nutritious option, since the fruit itself provides LESS sugar and MORE fiber! Plus, fruit is an easy and delicious snack with or without an extra topping.
But don’t even get me started on soda! 🙂 That IS an absolute no-no in our house.
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