Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Juice rationing

The American Academy of Pediatrics, my new favorite whipping boy, recently issued guidelines on the drinking of juice. Now, if you're like me, at this point you're hoping that what the American Academy of Pediatrics said is: Juice is good! Let them drink juice! Juice in the morning! Juice in the evening! Juice any old time at all! Lots and lots of delicious juice for everybody!

But of course, they didn’t say that. They hate parents. What they said was that we have to limit our children's juice consumption to 4 to 6 ounces a day for kids up to 6, and 12 ounces a day for kids up to 18. By the time they reach 18, goodness knows, we’ve long stopped worrying about them drinking juice and started worrying about them drinking other things.

Four to 6 ounces. Twelve ounces. Think about those amounts for a moment. That’s less than a cup a day for the little ones, and a cup and a half for the big kids. Or, if you measure like I do, one-and-a-half small juiceboxes for the under-6 set and one big juicebox and most of a small one for the 7-and-ups.

Let's all enjoy a hearty laugh now, shall we?

There are days my daughter exceeds her limit at breakfast. She drinks juice like some people breathe. It's always been that way, since we adopted her at age 4.5; I think maybe "juice" was her second English word, after "cookie." She has an unlimited capacity. We have to ration the stuff at dinner to make sure she eats, but 12 ounces a day? There would be open warfare.

Now, I've fought the good fight on beverages before. I sharply restrict soda intake, I forbid flourescent Gatorade, and I stand firm against the ditzy drinks advertised on Nickelodeon (No, you may not have the Koolaid that changes colors. I don't care if it's cool. Because I'm the American Academy of Pediatrics, that's why).

When we serve juice, we generally serve 100% fruit juice, just like the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests. Although, I’ll admit, my husband does have a weakness for those wacky Tropicana Twister flavors (Kiwi strawberry! Guava grape! Raspberry Kumquat!) and brings that sugar-supplemented stuff home more often than I’d like. The American Academy of Pediatrics needs to go to the supermarket with him and slap his hand.

But even when it’s the good stuff ... one-and-a-half cups max? Puh-leese. Does the American Academy of Pediatrics have children itself? What are the kids supposed to drink instead? Water? Is that really safe and pure enough? We all know about tap water, and recent reports have said bottled water isn’t so hot either. Milk? I’ve recently upped my daughter’s milk to two glasses a day, at her pediatrician’s suggestion, even though a gentleman on one of my e-mail lists has recently suggested that Milk Is the Root of All Health and Nutritional Evil. So what exactly do they drink? My kids are a little young for coffee and diet soda, which is how I personally drink my way through the day.

The concern with juice seems to be that it 1) keeps kids from eating whole fruits, like they need an excuse; 2) provides too many sugary calories, thereby rotting their teeth and promoting obesity; and 3) all those carbs can cause diarrhea. It’s nice of the American Academy of Pediatrics to be concerned, but frankly, my kids eat fruit (well, okay, my son eats fruit), both of them have good teeth and slim builds, and we’re pooping just fine, thanks. Fruit juice appears to be doing us no harm. Limiting fruit juice, on the other hand, would increase our household stress rate by 566%, and that can’t be good. I think we’ll have to opt for family sanity over optimum nutrition.

That is, unless the American Academy of Pediatrics wants to come over and babysit.

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