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Juicy Conflicts & Common Sense

Sometimes Dietitian Jessica Setnick has gently chided me for pushing fruit juice for children as a drink of choice.  In fact, I myself have published links and advice, warning parents to not substitute juice for needed milk for very young children, nor let them fill up on juice before meals, even quoting studies that show that drinking large amounts of juice can affect children's growth.

But my position as stated in "Healthy Beverages or Trash Drinks", is somewhat supported by a report in our local newspaper that researchers from the University of Tennessee together with Gerber Foods (who naturally has an interest in disproving earlier warnings about babies' consumption of juice).  They have found no connection between overweight or short children and the amount of juice they drink.  The reason they give is a little sad, though.  Children who drink less juice drink more soda.  

What's more pathetic is the fact that many consumers cannot tell the difference between non-carbonated soft drinks and real fruit juice which contains vital antioxidants and real fruit vitamins. 

A suit has been brought by the Florida Citrus Commission against the makers of a most popular drink, Sunny Delight, produced by Proctor & Gamble.  

This orange-juice colored drink contains 5 percent actual combined orange, tangerine, apple, lime and grapefruit juice, according to its label. Its primary ingredients are water and high-fructose corn syrup, although it is fortified with vitamins. Their label states "Original Florida Style", although just what this signifies isn't clear (except to "suspicious" minds at the Citrus Commission).  

Now you may think it's dumb to assume that consumers would think that this is orange juice.  But no.  Years ago when our grandchildren came to visit our first stop would be at our grocery store to buy "grandkid" edibles, since they would have starved to death before they'd eaten our diet, low fat, low sugar, lower on protein and rich in myriad veggies, beans and odd grains.  "We have to get orange juice," was always a reminder, as they headed for the Sunny Delight.  

Well, they're only children, you say.  But the bilingual ad sheet from this market for years has been advertising "Orange Juice (Jugo de Naranga) -  99˘ a gallon".  You can bet it's not the real stuff they're talking about, which currently averages about $2.99 a gallon.  When I have asked where this "juice" is located, I'm directed to the Sunny Delight.

I have gritted my teeth for years as people checked out their purchases using food stamps, and their main beverage purchase was soda and fruit-flavored drinks, especially Sunny Delight, (as well as chips, dips, fatty meats, cookies, ice cream, etc....).  None of my business, right?  But it's my tax money too that's paying for those food stamps, which I certainly don't begrudge anyone who needs them, and I would like to think people rewarded this beneficence by supplying a nutritious diet and not buying junk food.   At least the WIC program (Women, Infants and Children) specifies which foods can be purchased with their credits, and it only included pure juice, although canned, and no cola or other artificial drinks.

The owner of this same grocery, a close friend of mine, is anti-computer to the point he will not install scanners.  Therefore the cashiers ring things up by hand.  This usually works pretty well until they get to the juice and charge tax on it.  (Florida charges tax on soft drinks or other beverages with added sugar.)  I can argue with a new cashier until I'm blue in the face and explain the difference between real juice and sugared substitutes, and nearly always have to call the owner in to validate my position and educate his employee.  For my next few visits the new cashier will gingerly pick up anything liquid (often themselves either pregnant or already a mother) and ask "Is this real juice?  Is it taxable?"

Here's an article written by Joseph M. Mercola, DO, who thinks juice is pure poison, as he states in "Optimal Wellness Center's article, Role of Juice in Children's Diet. His home page reads "Doctors are Killing Us All" (he's one, and is advertising his services, so go figure!).

Dr. Weil recommends bottled or purified water, and plenty of it, or diluted fruit juice, herbal tea or well-watered down sports drinks. 

One way to start early training as far as drinking habits is concerned is to give your baby purified water.  Most babies object at first to the taste (or lack of it) and the rubber nipple (you are breast feeding, right?).  In hot weather infants often become constipated because of lack of hydration, and giving small sips of water in a teaspoon can not only alleviate this problem, but accustom them to drinking water.  An icy pitcher of water on the table at meals is a great idea too.  Guidelines as to the how and when of supplying fruit juice to youngsters can be found at the American Academy of Pediatrics in "AAP warns parents and pediatricians that fruit juice is not always the healthiest choice".

But by the time kids are old enough to beg until you give in for a sweet drink while you're shopping, or are school age, they're going to demand something other than water and milk to drink.  If you refuse to have sodas, punches and non-carbonated imitations of fruit juice in the house, and explain why, you'll have a better chance of keeping them from consuming the huge amount of empty calories and artificial colors and flavors that is the main beverage choice of most of the youth in the USA and many other modern countries.  

Personally, I stand by my guns on this one. Sooner or later, given current advertising, wide availability, attractive pricing and the actions of their peers, they are going to get on the sweet drink wagon.  Better fruit juice, iced tea or lemonade, or small bottles of plain or flavored water (and education as to why) than the alternative.  But don't take my word for it-- if the "experts" can't agree, how can I dare to insist I'm right.  As stated in "About the Author",  in the end you have to depend on yourself-- your own research, your own knowledge and your own budget-- to determine what is the best diet for you and your family. 

The Sneaky Kitchen
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