Is Juice Bad for Kids?
Whenever I take my kids to the park, I always see herds of kids who are sucking down on juice boxes like it’s going out of style. Their parents are always so eager to hand out the boxes of liquid sweetness because they think that they are providing their little ones with a healthy dosage of vitamins. So, it is no wonder that they all look at me crazily when I say that I don’t let my kids drink juice except as a treat – no, not even the organic, no sugar added “healthy” juice.
Why is juice bad for kids (and adults too)? There are 5 main reasons why I don’t give my kids juice.
Reason 1: Juice is Straight-Up Sugar
Most of the juice that you buy in the store is loaded with sugar. But, even if you are buying the “no sugar added” juice, it is still sugar.
When you juice a fruit, all of the fiber is removed from the juice. You are left with a dosage of concentrated fructose. Just like refined sugar, fructose causes blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. That in turn causes a burst of energy (aka what you’d call “hyperactivity” in a kid).
Unfortunately, the burst of energy doesn’t last for long though. High blood sugar levels triggers the body to store the energy as fat. After the sugar is stored, your blood sugar levels come crashing down. This leaves you feeling tired and cranky. (source)
Want to see behavioral problems? Just give your kids some juice and wait for the blood sugar spike and crash! Here is what the cycle looks like:
Blood Sugar Spike ->
Excess sugar stored as fat ->
Blood sugar crash ->
Tiredness and crankiness
Reason 2: Juice Leads to Diabetes
Here is where the blood-sugar cycle gets really bad. Our blood sugar levels are one of the factors which regulate hunger. When blood sugar is low, the hunger hormone ghrelin is produced in the brain and hunger is triggered. And what do you start craving? Your body craves more sugary foods to replace the sugar it just lost. So, you end up in a cycle of craving sweet stuff, crashing, and craving more sweets. (source)
There is all sorts of evidence which links fruit juice to type 2 diabetes. For example, in one study, researchers found that people who drank 1 cup of fruit juice per day had a 21% higher chance of developing diabetes. (source)
In whole fruit, the fructose isn’t as much of an issue because the fiber slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. That is why you can eat an apple and feel full and satisfied or a long time. By comparison, try drinking a glass of apple juice (1 glass = about 6-8 apples!) and see how you feel.
Reason 3: Juice Is Loaded with Calories
More than 1/3 of children and adolescents are overweight or obese- yikes! Apparently it’s time we start thinking about the amount of calories our kids are getting.
Let me be clear, I’m not advocating calorie counting for children. If they are eating a diet that is at least 80% real whole foods (including protein, fat and healthy carbohydrates), then there is no need to count or restrict calories. However, there is no need to top their diet off with a tall glass of empty calories which only serves to wire them up and fatten them up.
A lot of parents are really shocked to find out how many calories are in the juice they give their kids. For example, 8oz of a popular brand of “100% Orange Tangerine Juice” has 130 calories and 31 grams of sugar! This is more calories and sugar than in an 8oz can of Coca Cola!!!
If you aren’t trying to lose weight, then you may not care so much about the calorie aspect. But, again, these calories are pretty much pure sugar in the form of fructose, not nourishing calories that fuel your physical and mental performance and acuity.
For adults trying to kick the juice, soda or sugar habit I recommend this program.
Reason 4: Juice Contains Very Few Nutrients
Popular juice brands have the gall to make claims on their websites like their product “provides one full serving (1/2 cup) of fruit and 100% of the USDA recommended amount of Vitamin C for kids”. They also have the gall to show pictures of actual fruit on their labels, implying that drinking their juice is just as good as eating real fruit. This is NOT the case. It’s just clever marketing. Don’t fall for it!
Also, store-bought juice is pasteurized. Even the “healthy” juices pasteurize their juice and the heat from pasteurization kills off the nutritious, beneficial properties of the juice, like their vitamins and enzymes. (source) Non-organic fruit juices are also often irradiated to get rid of bacteria and make them last longer. Irradiation kills nutrients in food, not to mention creates numerous potential health risks like promoting cancer.
Obviously, fresh homemade juices have more nutrients than the packaged ones you buy in the store and is definitely the best choice if you’re going to drink juice. But even these don’t provide the same nutrients as whole fruit. When the juice is exposed to oxygen, the oxygen causes the nutrients to start breaking down. Just think of how quickly an apple turns brown after it is peeled. So, your homemade apple juice which if you let it sit is like drinking a brown apple. Yuck!
I have to say that I’ve made juice at home and I just can’t see how it’s worth the trouble and the mess to do it more than occasionally.
Reason 5: Juice Trains Kids to Expect Constant Sweetness
Try to eat an orange after drinking a glass of fructose-concentrated orange juice. It just won’t taste as sweet. And, after a glass of juice, foods like broccoli and carrots are going to be a hard sell.
Even though our ancestors did have access to fruits, they certainly did not have access to fruit juice. Theoretically, they could have squeezed the juice from an orange into their mouths, but the modern orange tree didn’t exist until 2500BC in China. (source) The fruits which our ancestors did eat, like berries, couldn’t be juiced so easily. So, it is safe to say that they never ate anything nearly as sweet as the stuff we are used to.
Other parents often find it amazing that my kids have no problem eating things like pan-fried salmon, Brussels sprouts and bacon, or homemade sauerkraut. It really isn’t amazing. It is just what is put in front of them and their palates have adapted over time so they actually find real food tasty.
Yes, I know breast milk is sweet and babies might give you the stink eye when you transition them to water from breast milk but is the solution to fill their bottles with apple juice? I really don’t think so.
So, What Do I Give My Kids to Drink Instead of Juice?
If they’re thirsty water is all they really need. After all, water makes up about 60% of our bodies. I also give them lots of naturally-fermented drinks like kombucha which are full of nutrients and healthy bacteria for their little guts. To make it more flavorful, I add whole fruits to the brew. Check out my recipes for Strawberry Kombucha and Apricot Kombucha. You and your kids will love it! Many people have kicked their soda addiction by swapping it out for kombucha instead!
As for whole fruit, I pretty much let my kids eat as much of it as they want. A few hours before dinner I cut them off so they won’t be too full for the good stuff but otherwise I let them graze.
Sound like a lot of work? Make them do it! 😉 And while they’re at it they can make dinner too! 🙂
Does this mean I never let my kids have juice?
Not at all! If they are at a birthday party or out with friends, I’ll let them have a juice box. Why? Because (in moderation) it is a relatively harmless treat. But that’s just what it is – a treat. Like a slice of paleo cake. And both those things score me major points as “cool mom of the day” with them. The bottom line is that for me, juice falls into the 20% of our 80/20 approach (you can read more about my approach to paleo here).
If You Do Give Your Kids Juice…
Compared to store-bought juices, fresh juice from a juicer machine is the way to go. You’ll actually get some nutrients in the juice and won’t have all that oxidation going on. Just remember that even fresh fruit juice is loaded with sugar.
Reduce the sugar load by adding less things like apples and more things like lemon, cucumber, and leafy greens. I have a Breville juicer and am very happy with it. You can buy it here.
I also like to sneak in nutrition wherever I can. This includes in their treats. So, if you are going to give your kids juice, why not add a scoop of gelatin into it? Real gelatin (not the chemically-made stuff you find in the supermarket) is one of the healthiest foods you can give your kids. It is good for:
- Bone health
- Brain function
- Blood sugar regulation
- Hair, skin, and nails
- Healing the gut
- Nutrient absorption
- Getting the right amino acid balance
- And much more
Normal gelatin will gel when you add it to liquids. However, you can use Collagen Hydrolysate instead (which is basically the same thing as gelatin). The collagen hydrolysate is tasteless and doesn’t gel, so your kids won’t even know that you snuck a superfood into their drink! You can buy Great Lakes collagen here.
If you want to learn more about the health benefits of gelatin, read The Gelatin Secret: The Surprising Superfood that Transforms Your Health and Beauty.
You’ll learn why gelatin is such a superfood, why you (and your kids) should consume it, and also get lots of kid-friendly gelatin recipes. Buy The Gelatin Secret here.
What do you think – Is juice bad for kids? Do you let your kids drink juice? I’d love to hear from you!
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40 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Give My Kids Juice”
YES!! I wholeheartedly agree!! I cringe when I see babies sucking away on a bottle of apple juice…which of course is made from one the dirtiest crops pesticide wise (non organic apples). Juice is a treat in this house…we almost never have it around.
Oh goodness, I couldn’t agree more. My child is off the wall insane when I give her juice. I gave it to her every 3 days, only 2 ounces mixed with 3 ounces of water, I’ve finally decided to call quits. She does great without juice, she loves her fruits and veggies, shes 1 1/2 with beautiful pearly whites and no cavities and teeth are a huge thing for me. I have to try your kombucha recipes, we love them. We drink them with straws cause I did hear they can stain your teeth. Love this article, I may just print it and hang it so when I hear those comments about how I “deprive my kid” i can just point to it and give inappropriate sign language.
I am totally addicted to orange juice for breakfast, but I only buy fresh squeezed high pulp O.J. What I don’t understand is the pulp free juice standing right next to what I buy, put out by the same company. Do they actually strain the juice and throw the pulp away? Anyway, last week I had one day of “intestinal trouble” which is extremely rare for me — something I haven’t had in more decades than I care to mention — so I thought apple juice for a few days might be good. Unfortunately, all I could find in small containers were juice boxes. There is something that should be totally banned. I drank one box the first day, then took out a second one the next day. That one was dented at the bottom edge with a big brown patch around it. Obviously the dent had a hole. If there’s concern about the product, my mind reels at the thought of the packaging.
On the other hand, after looking up kombucha on Wikipedia, I definitely think I’ll pass. I will stick with my high pulp orange juice once a day since I have lived to be old without getting diabetes. My two kids were raised with Tang (look up that one… 🙂 for breakfast and, at middle age, they aren’t diabetic either. Well, such is life… LOL.
Your comment gave me a good laugh! Cheers, E! I’m totally on board with picking and choosing our own battles and it sounds like OJ is one you don’t want to pick which is 100% ok. 🙂 Have a great day!
woow!!! such a controversial piece. i already introduced juice to my girls and now after reading this, am in Limbo
Thanks for the article. My son is in the other room having a fit. He’s 1yrs and a mild mannered kids. But Monday gave him a bottle of her boxed juice and he is stumbling around and about to hurt himself. She doesn’t get it….yet.
You’re welcome Stan! Sorry to hear that. 🙁 Hope a nap and some water will get him back to his mild self. 🙂
My son is 13 and I never gave him juice; it’s just training wheels for pop. And now I fight him tooth and nail about pop. I really don’t understand why doctors and nutritionists STILL say that 100 % juice is part of a healthy diet. It’s not. And don’t get me started on all these people giving their kids “squishies” because they won’t eat vegetables. Teach your kids how to read food labels. Let them in on your thought process even at the youngest age.
Training wheels for pop… that made me laugh. So true!
I’m glad I’m not the only one with this view on juice! My family thinks I’m some insane health freak who won’t give my toddler fruit juice. I really liked how you pointed out that fiber coupled with sugar helps slow down the rise in blood sugar. My boy loves whole fruit why would I intentionally take away the while package and give him liquid sugar that’s just asking for a hyper kid followed by a crash! Thanks for such a good read. 🙂
Haha! Exactly. But your family will figure it out pretty soon if you leave him at their house and they give him juice and he bounces off the walls for the next 2 hours 🙂
I am the same way with drinks for my 2 1/2 y.o. daughter, only raw milk, water or homemade kombucha, an she likes straight kombucha a lot. Sadly, though, it appears to be leaving tea stains her teeth and we don’t even give it to her every day. Have you had this problem (or anyone else)? I can’t even get the stains off with brushing once they appear, the dentist has to polish them off.
Interesting! I will ask on my facebook page for others to comment (facebook.com/hollywoodhomestead). Have you tried switching from using black tea to green tea for making kombucha? Curious if that makes a difference. Does she take Fermented cod liver oil/butter oil blend? Wondering if perhaps her teeth are more porous than they should be and that would help…. Thanks for your comment!
Thanks for your quick reply and I appreciate you posting my question on your Facebook page! She does seem to have porous teeth and we recently ordered the new infused FCLO/BO/SLO/Coconut oil blend because she just wouldn’t take the FCLO even mixed with a natural sweetener. Hopefully she’ll take to the blend and maybe that will help harden her tooth enamel.
awesome! I also read on thepaleomama.com not long ago about how she was reversing cavities (the book Cure Tooth Decay has amazing recos for that http://amzn.to/1lmTKQ2 ) but the reason I bring it up is because she was saying she had been drinking kombucha before bed every night (and not brushing teeth before bed I think) and that’s how she landed the cavities… The same reasons kombucha are beneficial to our digestion is exactly what’s not beneficial to our teeth unfortunately. It may help to brush teeth immediately or at least swish and swallow some water immediately after the booch. Perhaps that will make a bit of difference till you get the FCLO going. 🙂 Cheers!
Yes I have that book, it’s a great resource. Thankfully she does not have any cavities, but sadly I have one but it’s small at least. It’s a tough protocol to follow, especially in the dead of winter when raw milk is not plentiful.
Oh and yes, I have tried using green tea and she still gets stains.
Cathy, my daughter gets stains on her teeth and the dentist told us that it is actually from the saliva she produces, they said it happens in about 20% of children ( maybe less, I can’t remember now), but they said it should eventually clear up as she gets older, which I really hope happens…my daughter only drinks milk and water, so i know it’s not from what she drinks
Thanks for the feedback, ladies! I really think it’s from the Kombucha because she didn’t have stains until she started drinking a lot of it, and now it seems that even a cup every few days will cause the stains to return. I’ll be brushing her teeth after every time she has some, but will limit her intake and give more water and raw milk.
Thank you for clarifying Type 2 diabetes and not just saying Diabetes. Type 1 & 2 are so different and everyone mixes them up. My son was recently dx with type 1 and I hardly ever give my kids juice because of the sugar. My kids have juice maybe once every 3-4 months. They mostly drink water.
Yes! Different indeed. Thank you for your comment, Jennifer!
Great article Sylvie! I am the same, I try to give juice only as a treat, rarely do my kids get juice boxes. My daughter doesn’t even like juice so it’s only my son I have to worry about! (he’ll drink anything!)
Thanks for reading, Joyce!
I thought sugar is the easiest way of energy for your body to digest so I do give fresh raw squished unstrained juice to my son and I dont have problems with his behavior. I actually know how monkies eat oranges in the wild. They just suck up the juice and throw the rest… I think juice is healthy and sugar from fruits is safe and beneficial
Btw sorry for any typos english is not my first language… I give my son citric juices only and smoothies
Great post!! Totally agree.. Juice is completely unnecessary sugar laden addictive and inflammatory substance that only causes harm to the body. When others (particularly older folks) ask, why no jjuice for my 2.5 yr. old , and hear my response, they act as if something is wrong with me. So, it is very refreshing reading a shared perspective. Thank you!
Thank you so much!
I agree! I’ve never given my daughter juice either, water is more than enough.
I definitely agree that an entire juice box a couple times a day is too much. Doctors say give your child 6oz of juice a day, so it may seem good to give your child juice boxes. I personally fill my daughter’s sippy cup 90‰ of the way with water, then top it off with juice. Her body doesn’t need juice, it needs water. But I don’t think that the reason children are overweight and hyper is due to juice – those kinds of things can be attributed to the fake unhealthy food their parents & schools feed them.
I agree on the juice issue. WIC encourages this bad practice, drives me crazy. I buy the flavored water pouches for school lunches (because everything else leaks or is too expensive to risk losing). Currently my toddler is sucking one of those down (ie: expects sweetness) we are using them as a potty training TREAT. Also, Juicy Juice is advertising on this page. SO funny, this whole advertising to the market software isn’t quite as bright as a human!
themeanmama I should clarify, juicy juice is not advertising on my page but I can see how it looks that way. We put the advertisement in there to show how bogus their claims are. I will fix it to avoid confusion- thanks for your comment!
My 3 yr old only has water or milk and on the very odd occasion she’ll have a fruit juice, or smoothy. If she’s thirsty she’ll ask for water before even considering juice. It’s lovely to read an article that agrees with my views! X
thank you so much for taking the time to comment!
I totally agree with you. My daughter is 18 months and since she turned one I’ve had people trying to give her juice because it’s “healthy”. My response so far has been to say no on her behalf, and suggest giving her a piece of whole fruit instead. The longer I can keep her from having juice, the longer it will be before she asks for it. After Christmas with her cousin who is the same age I am even more convinced because he would often refuse water and demand juice instead!
Good plan, Ginger! 🙂
I’m the same way! I have 4 kids, 6yo down to 6mo. We are a whole foods/plant based family who really limits sugar except for the occasional treat. My kids go from nursing to sippy cups with WATER only! My children think its such a great treat to get some juice at a party or while on vacation.
LOVE this article Sylvia! I’ve learned sooo much. We’re in this transition of cleaning up our diets even more (which were pretty healthy to begin with, but it wasn’t very “real food” style), and this has really helped me to see why juice isn’t ideal… even when diluting it. Plus my kids love fruit kombucha and other healthy drinks and they didn’t drink much juice in the first place. And I’m totally on board with the 80/20 principle. Thanks again, I’m definitely sharing!
Thanks so much, Meagan, for taking the time to comment! Glad it was helpful 🙂
I only give organic juice when I do, but I really try no to.