January 8, 2004
Cutting down on consumption of fruit juice may help reduce the steady increase of childhood obesity
By Lauren Fairburn
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—As many Mississippians vow to slim down, eat right and exercise more this year, Methodist Rehabilitation Center urges parents and caregivers to re-examine their children’s health and nutrition habits.
“One-third of children in Mississippi are overweight or obese,” said Linda Peddicord, a licensed and registered dietician at Methodist Rehab. “While many factors contribute to this nationwide epidemic, children who drink too much juice are at greater risk for weight gain, tooth decay and poor nutrition.”
Peddicord says that filling up on juice between meals leaves less room for healthier foods that are packed with nutrients and fiber –components that juice often lacks.
Some juices cram up to 210 calories per one 8-ounce serving and can often lead to weight gain, says Peddicord. For a child who only needs 1300 calories per day, calories from juice can add up quickly and spoil an appetite for healthier foods.
“Whole fruit provides a good source of fiber and other important nutrients that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer”, said Peddicord. “The key is to offer one or two daily servings of real fruit and avoid giving juice instead of water when children are thirsty.”
Peddicord recommends always reading the labels. Many juices, like orange juice, are a good source of vitamin C, folic acid and other B vitamins, she says. Still the majority of a child’s diet should come from grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and proteins.
Tips to better manage a child’s juice intake:
- Always read the labels before purchasing juice.
- Dilute juice with water. That way it still offers a great taste without the unnecessary calories.
- Never give juice between meals. Always offer water. Children need fluoride for strong teeth.
- Suggest milk or a calcium-fortified juice with meals.
- Try to stick to well-balanced meals and two healthy snacks.
- Never allow children to sip on juice for long periods or let a child sleep with a juice cup or bottle. Saliva production decreases at night and cavities can occur when teeth are exposed to sugars in the mouth.