Sugar is everywhere! The modern American child gets more sugar than ever. Consider that the American Heart Association recommends that children age 4-8 years get no more than three "added" teaspoons of sugar per day. One flavored yogurt can have four teaspoons and a breakfast tart can have five teaspoons of added sugar. That's three times the recommended amount of added sugar by breakfast! It's no surprise the average American 4-8 year-old child gets a whopping 21 teaspoons of added sugar per day! With more and more sugar creeping into nearly every processed food, it's up to us as parents to be mindful of how much sugar our kids are taking in.
That being said, we really need to reevealuate the idea that juice is a "healthy" beverage for kids. With few nutrients, NO fiber, and a HUGE bomb of fructose that goes straight to the liver, juice is just adding insult to injury. When parents of my pediatric patients ask me, "When can my child start drinking juice?" I usually say, "Hopefully never!" Most children would not be able to eat four apples in one sitting. But that is approximately how many apples it takes to make a cup of apple juice. And with no fiber to signal how full they are, kids can easily suck down juice box after juice box, getting calorie after empty fructose calorie.
So when it comes counseling on what kids should drink, my new mantra is: "Milk with meals and water between meals." Simple enough, right?
"But my child doesn't like water? And neither do I, frankly" is how many parents respond to my mantra. Hmm...seems like what they really mean is their child was never TAUGHT to drink water and was frequently offered juice and other sweet drinks and now prefers NOT to drink water.
Here's my alternative solution. This works for adults and kids alike-INFUSED FRUIT WATER.
It's simple: Take a pitcher. Place slices of your favorite fruit in it, and fill the pitcher with water. Chill in the fridge and let the water become infused with the fruit. Voilà, you have a refreshing, ALL-NATURAL, virtually sugar-free beverage! I have recommended fruit water to many of my patients and their families and have been able to convert them into water lovers. There are so many great combinations of fruit water that you can try, and summer is a great time to get started, with so many of our favorite fruits in season. You can purchase a fancy water infuser pitcher, but I use a simple glass pitcher. The top has a small pouring spout, so the fruit stays in when I pour the water out. I usually change the fruit every 2-3 days as the flavor fades.
Here are a couple of examples of fruit water we have made recently. If you search online you can find many other fruit water "recipes" with other herbs like lemongrass, sage or rosemary and fruits like watermelon, kiwi, and pineapple. Have fun, and and drink up in a healthy way!
To learn more about the benefits of drinking water, read my post, "What's Wrong with Water". To find more information on our kid-tested recipes and classes offered by The Doctor Yum Project visit doctoryum.com.