Fruit juice has been in the media a lot recently and as a Mum/Dietitian it’s something I often get asked about.
It’s true that many adults and children struggle to achieve their “5 a day” and it could be argued that fruit juice is a one vehicle for getting more fruit into our diets. However, a lot of attention has recently been directed, by the Department of Health, at the high levels of sugar in fruit juice and how fruit juice is one of the main sources of sugar in the UK diet. Kids do love fruit juice and according to recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data fruit juice accounts for 9% of the sugar intake in 4-10 year olds (soft drinks were 11%).
Essentially, sugar is sugar, whether it is added to your food or from natural sources. Sugar has been linked with addiction, weight gain, obesity and diabetes. Fruit juice is also strongly associated with tooth decay. Currently 150ml of pure fruit juice counts as a maximum of one of your “5 a day” and smoothies count only as 2 of your 5 a day but it looks like the government may be soon revising these guidelines and recommended we drink less.
My top tip
Do offer your child the occasional glass of diluted fruit juice but otherwise give water as their main drink.
Oscar definitely shows a preference for sweet foods like fruits. This is natural. Research has shown that babies are born with an inherent liking for sweet foods. Newborns that were given sugar water (prior to bottle feeding or breastfeeding) showed an expression of ‘satisfaction’ accompanied by eager licking of their upper lip and loud sucks. Those given just distilled water remained sleepy and disinterested (Steiner, 1977). It is thought that survival of the fittest ensured this preference for sweet foods as they are higher in calories, providing energy and so aided survival.
I do understand how parents bargain desserts against main meals. I found myself inclined to do it too and Oscar is only 6 months old! Keep perservering with the less sweet foods. These will take more attempts before they are accepted but worth it in the long term. It may take as many as 21 attempts before your child accepts a food.
TOP TIP: Don’t give up trying vegetables. Mix them with a fruit or sweeter vegetables like sweet potato to make them more appealing but still keep trying them by themselves.
Steiner JE “Facial Expression of the Neonate Infant Indicating the Hedonics of Food-Related Chemical Stimuli” in Taste and Development, ed. JM Weiffenbach, Bethesda, MD;US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1977 pp. 174-175