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No soda, no juice – what can kids drink?
Q: If we’re not supposed to give kids fruit juice, what are they suppose to drink? Parents walk around with sodas all day long, and the kids are thirsty. Here in Louisiana, we all need to replace fluids. Please advise.
Aline Pineville, LA
A: Aline, I don’t think any pediatric nutritionist or physician is suggesting that children not be given juices, but we are recommending that the amount of juice be limited, and that it not be given in bottles. Too much juice intake is being blamed in part for a few childhood health problems, such as obesity and dental problems.

You see, fruit juice, while healthy, is also a concentration of fruit sugars and is higher in calories per gram than a piece of fruit. It also lacks the fiber content of actual fruit. For example, a medium whole apple (including the peel) weighing 138 grams is 81 calories or 1.7 calories/gram with 4 grams of fiber. A 248-gram cup of apple juice at 116 calories is 2.1 calories/gram with no fiber.

Juice in a bottle tends to increase the overall intake and puts the child at risk for dental tooth damage. What’s more alarming is that many parents don’t understand the difference between juice and juice drinks.

Juice must be 100 percent fruit juice, while juice drinks contain little fruit juice but use high fructose corn syrup in the recipe. Juice drinks are less expensive to buy but contain a fraction of the nutrition of a true juice. What’s more, they elevate blood sugar levels and can actually make you thirstier. I agree that it’s not fair to limit juice when adults are drinking soda all day, but soda consumption is being looked at as one of the causes of the obesity epidemic. Even if they’re not offering it to their kids, adults should avoid soda themselves.

In hot climates, water is much more effective for quenching thirst, but juices can and should be offered as a part of the overall daily nutrition plan along with fresh fruit servings.

Susan M. Leisner RD, IBCLC, RLC Nutritionist & Lactation Consultant