Well & Good
Apple juice poses a real danger to waistlines and children's teeth, nutrition experts say.
It has few natural nutrients, lots of calories and, in some cases, more sugar than fizzy drink has.
It trains a child to like very sweet things, displaces better beverages and foods, and adds to the obesity problem, its critics say.
"It's like sugar water," said Judith Stern, a nutrition professor at the University of California who has consulted for candy makers as well as for Weight Watchers.
"I won't let my three-year-old grandson drink apple juice."
Many juices are fortified with vitamins, so they're not just empty calories. But that doesn't appease some nutritionists.
"If it wasn't healthy in the first place, adding vitamins doesn't make it into a health food," and if it causes weight gain, it's not a healthy choice, said Karen Ansel, a registered dietitian in New York and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says juice can be part of a healthy diet, but its policy is blunt: "Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit for infants younger than 6 months" and no benefits over whole fruit for older kids.
Fruit juice contains carbohydrates, mostly sugars, in a much higher concentration than in milk. Juice has a small amount of protein and minerals and lacks the fibre in whole fruit.
Drinking juice delivers a lot of calories quickly so you don't realise how much you've consumed, whereas you would have to eat a lot of apples to get the same amount, and "you would feel much, much more full from the apples," Ansel said.
"Whole fruits are much better for you," said Dr Frank Greer, a University of Wisconsin, Madison, professor and former head of the pediatrics academy's nutrition committee.
If you or your family drinks juice, here is some advice from nutrition experts:
Choose a juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D-3.
Give children only pasteurised juice - that's the only type safe from germs that can cause serious disease.
Don't give juice before six months of age, and never put it in bottles or covered cups that allow babies and children to consume it throughout the day, which can cause tooth decay. For the same reason, don't give infants juice at bedtime.
Encourage kids to eat fruit.
Don't be swayed by healthy-sounding label claims. "No sugar added" doesn't mean it isn't full of naturally occurring sugar. And "cholesterol-free" is silly - only animal products contain cholesterol.
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