Juice is fruit, so it’s healthy, right?
First, let me make clear that I’m talking about the juice you find in bottles or juice boxes in the beverages aisle at a grocery store, not the stuff people make at home with a juicer or the purchased equivalents that have to be kept cold.
We’re tackling Juicy Juice, Welch’s, Capri Sun, and your average everyday apple juice here.
We haven’t had bottled juice in our house for years (well, except for a few jugs that are in the basement right now that you’ll hear about in a minute).
When my first child was getting ready to eat solid food about six years ago, the pediatrician had “the juice talk” with us. She basically said that we can start giving our little guy a sippy, but that the main point is to help him learn to use a cup, not to give nourishment. The sippy really only need water in it.
Did we want to give him juice? (Probably not, I assured her.)
If we did, she recommended cutting it half-and-half with water, which we always did when he was offered juice at family gatherings or if we had orange juice with breakfast, until we couldn’t get away with it anymore. I don’t know that he had full strength juice until he was three years old!
She also detailed the only juices that have any nutritional value: cranberry, grape, and orange. “Juice is really only a delivery system for water,” she told us, and that’s been my juice mantra ever since…which is why our kids drink water, period. Here’s why:
All juice is full of sugar.
Even 100% fruit juice.
True, the sugar in 100% fruit juice is real fruit sugar, called fructose, but it still has an impact in the body and on blood sugar just like sucrose, or white table sugar.
In nature, fruit is a complete package, which always contains fiber. The role of fiber is to slow down the absorption of the sugars. Without fiber – i.e., in juice – the sugars rush through one’s body much faster, causing that “sugar high” feeling and wreaking havoc on one’s blood sugar whether you feel it or not.
Other “juice” that is not 100% fruit juice – the fruit punches and yes, Capri Suns of the world – are water mixed with sugar (usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup), fake flavorings and artificial colors. Sound like Halloween?
Fake juice is liquid candy. Period.
If my kids want to have juice at a party, it counts as their dessert for the day.
Sometimes there’s poison in there.
And I’m not even talking about the arsenic in apple juice ordeal.
To temper the sugar issue, some juice manufacturers offer “less sugar” versions of their products. They do not, however, cut down the sweetness. They simply add some artificial sweetener and market it as health food. I am firmly convinced that artificial sweeteners are poison for any human being, but they are particularly dangerous for children’s developing brains.
You may not agree. You may even regularly drink diet sodas yourself as a way to avoid calories or cut carbs. Personally, the more I read about artificial sweeteners of all kinds, the more fearful I become. They’re even in our water supply, so others’ choices affect me and my children, no matter what I do. Please take a moment and read about the dangers of artificial sweeteners for kids.
The fruit is cooked.
Cooking tomatoes releases lycopene; cooking most fruits diminishes their nutrient value considerably. Heat destroys Vitamin C in particular, so many juice producers add it back into the bottle in the form of ascorbic acid, industrially produced Vitamin C. (It is still “made from natural products” so juice bottlers can keep their “natural” labeling – which basically means nothing. You should see what glucose goes through to become Vitamin C…)
If you really want your kids to get Vitamin C, you might as well just give them a chewable and skip the juice.
Juice is a dead food.
When you eat a steak, you bet you want it dead on the plate. But when you peel a banana, slice an apple, or wash a grape, you’re guaranteeing your family a living food, filled with enzymes that help digestion and general good health. For example:
- The enzyme amylase, present in high quantities in bananas, is the same enzyme in your saliva that begins the process of breaking down food into usable parts.
- Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which helps digest proteins and is anti-inflammatory.
- Grapefruits are packed with various enzymes that positively impact insulin and triglycerides.
Grapefruit juice? Nada.
Pineapple juice? Nothing.
Canned juice that can sit on a shelf has been pasteurized, or cooked at very high temperatures, so all the enzymes are long dead. Drinking orange juice is NOT the same as eating an orange, unless you squeeze it yourself. Even then, you should keep the pulp in for fiber.
What’s in Juice?
The fiber has been taken out.
The vitamins are largely denatured and ineffective.
The enzymes have been killed.
So what’s left?
Water. Sugar. And sometimes chemicals.
It’s just not worth your money or your kids’ health to bother with juice.
If you’ve already built a juice habit, you are not alone in America.
At our house, we offer water or milk for dinner. My son takes a water bottle to school every day for lunch. But I do understand that it’s not easy to make changes.
We all just do our best with the knowledge we have.
Here’s an easy printable to help you remember the best thing to drink, potential compromises, and the worst offenders.
If you’re new to all this and would like a more comprehensive list of “what’s healthy to eat,” I have another printable called What to Eat, What to Avoid, How to Compromise that might come in handy.
You also might enjoy a little help packing a healthy lunch – that post has tons of ideas, plus time saving tips (my lazy specialty).
The Day the Juice Hit the Fan
There’s a reason I’m writing this post.
I’m going to tell you this story like I’ve told a few other moms in my “real” life, but I know that someday I’ll probably have to delete it when Leah (and her friends) can read.
Just imagine lots of arm waving, hands-over-heart clutching, eyebrow raising and furrowing, and a fairly shrill “I can’t believe this” voice. Got that image?
Leah (age 3 and a half – this part is very important to her right now), Jonathan (4 mos.) and I went to my first grader’s school to observe the Christmas party. All the parents were invited, and he wanted us to come.
When the Capri Sun juice pouches came around, Leah was offered one, and although I hate the idea of sugar water juice, I also hate to be Mom the Meanie all. the. time. After a quick check to make reasonably sure they weren’t the kind with artificial sweeteners included – those usually say “25% less sugar!” or some such nonsense – I allowed my darling 3-year-old to have her own.
The sweet drink was of course a huge treat for her, and she sucked down the entire thing in no time. (That was about the time I put my juicy foot in my mouth…)
Less than an hour later, in line at the post office – in December, take note – she announced that she had to go potty. Badly.
There’s no bathroom in the post office.
With three kids in tow, I had to walk across the parking lot to Walgreen’s to avoid a puddle-on-the-floor incident, the whole time cursing the juice and my lack of foresight in allowing us to leave the school without visiting the bathroom.
We got through the line at the post office, and then I had the bright idea that we could walk the quarter mile or so over to the grocery store so I wouldn’t have to put a sleeping baby from the Moby Wrap into his cold carseat. I only needed a few things on sale and would carry a reusable bag.
A fateful endcap caught my eye. It was advertising buy one, get one on 100% juice. I thought, “If I bring in this kind of juice to the next party, at least the kids get a step up from Capri Sun.”
I grabbed four 64-ounce jugs.
Add to that the 8 pounds of oranges that caught my eye, the 4.5 pounds of cheese I bought, a carton of ice cream and a few assorted other produce items, and you’ll know why I smacked my own forehead when we got in line and I realized that my van was a quarter mile away across grass!
I am not always a smart lady.
Murphy’s Law kicked in with the person in front of my having trouble with the register, two phone calls coming in (both people I needed to address that second, literally, or mess them up), trying to maneuver one of those “car carts,” that’s extra long with the car on the front, into the next line over, and then:
“Mommy, I have to go potty.”
It couldn’t be. We just went in Walgreen’s a mere 30 minutes before, and she had peed Lake Michigan. There couldn’t possibly be more. This kid is fibbing.
“Are you sure? Can you hold it?”
“No…I have to go badly!”
I told her she’d have to wait until we at least got through the line, as the bathrooms were at the very back of the store.
Just as I finished ringing everything up and was trying to fit it into my one lousy reusable bag, cursing myself (in my head) the whole time, I heard:
“Mommy? It came out.”
A puddle on the floor incident!
What could I do? I gazed at all my voluminous groceries, which I already couldn’t carry, paid for but not bagged, my baby snuggled on my front, sleeping, and my 3-year-old, soaked through her pants.
I wanted to shake my fist at the heavens and scream, “Juuuuuuuuuuuuice!” like Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire: “Stellaaaaaaaaaaa!”
There’s more to the story, mostly involving me dragging a very heavy bag a quarter mile and other totally-my-fault antics.
I tried to keep my temper from going through the roof along with my blood pressure by reminding myself that this was not Leah’s fault. It absolutely, positively, had nothing to do with Leah’s attitude, self-control, or choices.
“This is not your fault,” I told her. “Mommy feels angry right now, but not at you.
This…is juice’s fault. This is all juice’s fault. We’ll just never, ever drink juice again. The Kimball family does not like juice. No. More. Juice.”
The bottom line with juice is why drink our sugars anyway? If we’re serving dessert to our kids, it may as well be something delicious like ice cream.
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