Navigating the Juice Jungle

juice.jpgToday, Jennifer shares 7 tips for navigating the juice jungle:

My son recently outed me as a neurotic non-juice parent at a birthday party. And during his "WE. DON'T. DRINK. JUICE!" meltdown, and while my daughter stood perplexed in front of this foreign combo of drink pouch + straw, I started to wonder whether I had been wrong in depriving my kids of this common beverage. Here are some ideas for navigating the juice jungle, culled from my own experiences, and tips from Ayla Withee (a registered dietitian at Boston's SportsClubLA and nutrition blogger for Boston Magazine) and Boston Mamas editor Christine Koh.
1. Start with other fluids first. To make sure your child doesn't fill up on empty calories, try water and milk first. Another option is to make yogurt smoothies and add fresh or frozen fruit to the mix.

2. Try diluting. If you've already been serving your kids juice, it may prove challenging to go cold turkey. Withee recommends diluting juice gradually with water, or making the drink special by diluting with seltzer to make a "fruit fizz."

3. Go pure. If you're going to opt for juice, read the labels and select options that indicate that the drink is 100% juice. However, juice is concentrated so Withee does warn that there is a higher amount of natural sugar in the juice then would be in a regular serving of fruit. So, consider diluting.

4. Be mindful of servings. If you're like me, you probably have at least one picky eater in your home. I've often wondered whether I should use fruit or vegetable juices to get servings into my kids' diets. Withee notes that juice does not have the same nutritional benefits as whole fruits or vegetables since much of the nutrients and fiber are lost in the juicing process, thus resulting in a product that is less filling and more calorie-dense. So if you are going to serve juice, try to limit it to one or two servings of 100% juice per day.

5. Keep trying. Research says it may take up to fifteen times of introducing a food before a child will actually eat it. Keep trying whole fruits and vegetables first. Don't make it a battle -- your job is to present the options, not force them down your child's throat, so just keep presenting and try to stay relaxed about it.

6. Avoid deprivation. It's human nature to want something more when it's deprived of you -- Christine shared that when she was a child, her parents drew a hard line on sugar, which made her and her siblings want it more and sometimes go to crazy lengths to get it! If you opt to have a no juice rule at home, make periodic exceptions (e.g., birthday parties) so as not to completely deprive.

7. Teach your kids to make choices. As with many things in life, the juice issue can be turned into a teaching moment. Talk to your kids about the nutritional issues and engage them in the choice process so they feel like they have control. Christine has long engaged this practice, making explicit with her now 7-year-old that as long as she first fills herself first with good calories, she's welcome to have a treat after (once a day). And that it's important to think about whether the treat is worth it (i.e., is it homemade vs. sitting on a shelf for who knows how long?), whether you really want it (i.e., listening to your belly), and that there's always another treat somewhere else down the road (i.e., there is enough in the world). Christine has found that talking about these concepts have been incredibly effective in teaching Laurel to listen to her body and be more mindful about her food choices. As a result, Laurel doesn't always opt for treats when they are an option.

Do you have other tips to share? Any struggles? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Image credit: Stuart Miles /