Giving your children the right foods and drinks is very important, because young bodies require the right nutrition to grow and develop.
It can be very difficult to find the right balance, especially when children are very young. One widely debated topic is whether fruit juices are actually good for children? Although some nutritional specialists have previously advocated fruit juices over fizzy drinks, more and more doctors are now warning that the consumption of fruit juices should also be restricted.
There are still health benefits available from fruit juices, but they should be enjoyed in moderation rather than being the drink of choice.
The Benefits of Fruit Juice
Fresh fruits are known for their great taste, so many children are pleased to be offered fruit juice. Many children prefer fruit juice to drinks like water or plain milk, because they enjoy the flavour more. This means that it can be easier to encourage children to stay adequately hydrated, especially during the summer time. However, the taste that children crave is often down to the high sugar content. Most fruit juices are very sweet because of the high natural sugar content.
Most fruit juices do contain a range of essential vitamins and minerals. The nutritional balance of the juice will depend on the mixture of fruits, as well as the processes which were used to get the juice ready for sale. Some preparation processes which are used in large scale manufacturing, including pasteurisation, can actually reduce nutritional benefits of the ingredients that are used.
If you want your children to consume fruit juices for the health benefits of fresh fruit, it is often better to make your own fresh juices at home using a blender or food processor. However, well prepared fruit juices are packed with vitamins and minerals. For example, freshly squeezed orange juice will normally give your child all of the vitamin C that they need for the day.
Fresh juices can make up one of your child’s “5-a-day”, to help them to reach their daily target. You only need to consume 150ml of juice per day for it to count as one portion of your daily target.
The Risks of too much Fruit Juice
The main risk from drinking too much fruit juice is related to the high sugar content. The natural sugars which can be found in fruit juices can cause tooth decay.
Most fruit contains high levels of fructose (fruit sugar) which is released when the fruit is blended or juiced. This sugar is not released in the same way when whole fruits are consumed. Because the juice is swilled around the mouth whilst it is being drunk, the sugar is able to coat the teeth. The longer that the sugar is allowed to be in contact with the surface of the teeth for, the more that it is able to decay the surface of the tooth. Eventually cavities are able to form which can be very painful.
As well as having an effect on infant teeth, too much sugar can be bad for your child’s adult teeth when they start to come through. To reduce the harmful effects of the sugar that is present in natural fruit juices, you are advised to only allow your children to drink fruit juice at mealtimes.
Because of the amount of the higher sugar content in fruit juices, it is also possible that they might have a high calorie content.
If your child consumes more calories than they burn through daily activities, then it is likely that they will put on weight. Childhood obesity can increase the risk of ongoing health-problems in later life. Because parents often feel as though fruit juices are the healthier choice, they do not always consider the calorie content of these drinks. This can lead to excessive calorie consumption.
Although children should not be taught to calorie count, parents should be aware of foods and drinks that may contain a high number of calories.
Producers often use misleading labelling when they are marketing fruit juices and similar products. They may use words and phrases which make the drinks seem much healthier than they actually are. Many products that are labelled as “juice drinks” have high sugar contents but do not offer the same health benefits that fresh fruit juices offer. These may not count as one of your “5-a-day”.
Most consumers do not have the time to check the labelling of every single product that they buy, and therefore have to take most things on face value. If you do not have time to understand the labelling of store-bought fruit juices and “juice drinks”, then you may want to avoid them and choose homemade alternatives, water or milk, so that you can make sure that your child does not end up with a sugar-loaded drink with no health benefits.