On the long list of worries parents have for their children, what to feed them is certainly at the top. Child obesity has skyrocketed in the United States since the 1970s, and everyone is desperate to know why. Is it genetics? Fast food? Eight hours a day on iPads?
Since every child and every parenting style is different, researchers haven’t been able to target the exact cause for this alarming increase. However, a new study sheds some light on what isn’t the culprit: juice boxes.
Ah yes, juice boxes. The handheld vessel of sugar that has evoked fear and painful debate in the hearts of parents around the globe for decades. Often packed with carbs, additives, dyes and over 30 grams of sugar, juice has taken the blame for weight gain in children and forced parents to find new forms of fruit to stick in the paws of their children. But now, parents, rejoice! The dark days are over!
The researchers’ analysis of over 34,000 children found that for children ages 1 to 6, one daily serving of juice (6 to 8 ounces) was associated with little to no increase in body mass index. In fact, they found only a 0.18- to 0.33-pound weight gain in the juice-drinking kids throughout the year — clearly nothing detrimental to the kid’s health.
While super-exciting, this news doesn’t call for a boundless juice extravaganza. There are a couple of things to keep in mind.
The results of this study ring true only for kids who drink one serving a day, not a glass at breakfast, lunch and dinner. As with anything else you feed your children, continue to think in portions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that when it comes to juice intake, limit children 7 to 18 years of age to 8 to 12 ounces a day, children 1 to 6 years to 4 to 6 ounces a day. And for infants under 6 months old, steer clear of juice entirely.
And another thing: It’s gotta be real juice. This research was solely conducted with servings of 100 percent fruit juice, not fruit-flavored sodas or fruit cocktails. So before you stock your fridge, purse and car, check those nutrition labels.
But once you've done that, go ahead. Hand ‘em the juice box. You feel like a responsibly informed parent, and they’re preoccupied with the bendy straw. Life is good.