Juice--Is your child getting too much?

August 07, 2000|By KEVIN CLAPP

Juice--Is your child getting too much?

Juice. Cool sliding down the throat, sweet to taste, healthy for the body, it's the perfect beverage for growing toddlers, right?

Not necessarily, according to some dentists and pediatricians, likening it to soft drinks and, when contained in sip cups, a potential tooth decay disaster waiting to happen.

"It's a sweet; it's like soda. You could go your whole life without drinking a can of soda. Likewise, you could go your life without drinking juice," says Hagerstown pediatrician M. Douglas Becker. "There's really little nutritional value in them other than vitamin C, which (children) get from other sources nowadays."

Not only are children better off eating a piece of fruit than drinking a glass of juice, the drink's sugar content could spell trouble for their teeth.


Hagerstown dentist Jeffrey Pearlman says drinking juice is like eating any other sweet. It raises the level of acid in the mouth, and takes up to 1 1/2 hours to return to normal.

"In certain situations we see a lot of decay with juices," he says. "One of the culprits is in sippy cups because parents are putting sugary juice in the sippy cup."

Rather than drinking the juice in a few, quick swallows, using sip cups lengthens the amount of time juice is in the mouth. This causes acid levels to rise, contributing to tooth decay.

A sip cup with juice at meal time isn't as bad because children are drinking in a concentrated time. Problems arise when children are given a sip cup and allowed to roam and drink slowly over long periods.

"Parents say, 'I dilute it.' It doesn't matter. Sugar is sugar," Pearlman says. "If (the child) has it with a meal, you're not going to see it because he only gets one hit. If you eat it slowly over a period of time, it's a challenge to the tooth."

Both Pearlman and Becker recommend water or milk for children, particularly when sip cups are being used. But they don't say parents have to eliminate juices from a child's diet entirely.

"If you don't use it except for the occasional treat, you're not jeopardizing children's health," Becker says.

For infants up to a year old, he suggests giving them no more than 3 ounces of juice a day. To age six, Becker says one 4- to 6-ounce serving of juice is more than enough.

Instead of juices, he says a piece of ripe fruit provides more health benefit than a few swallows of juice. But because of the sweet taste, juice is a magnet that attracts a young child's growing palate.

Even for picky eaters who gravitate to juice for taste and resist other fruits and vegetables, Becker says parents should stay firm. If children need four servings of fruits or vegetables a day, no more than one should be a juice.

"I think the tendency is for children to drink a lot more of it than they need," Becker says. "I suggest water for drink so the child doesn't get to be just a sweet-tooth fanatic."

What's in your juice?

Doctors and dentists say juices are no better than soft drinks, with a sugar content that rivals their fizzy counterparts. So, how much sugar is in your favorite juice? Here are some sugar contents, in grams, for one, 8-ounce serving:

  • Welch's Grape Juice - 35
  • Mott's Apple Juice - 27
  • Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail - 34
  • Ocean Spray White Grapefruit Juice - 21
  • Dole Pineapple Juice - 27
  • V8 Juice - 8
  • Tropicana Twister Strawberry Kiwi - 28
  • Hi-C Fruit Punch - 29
  • Hawaiian Punch - 28
  • Juicy Juice Punch - 27
  • Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice (Original) - 22
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