Toddler Juice Cleanse
Ok, so I admit the title of this post is misleading… but it probably got your attention!. My almost-two-year-old did not go on a juice cleanse. I haven’t extensively researched this diet trend (that includes only drinking fruit and veggie juice for a set period of time), but I have tried it myself once and only lasted until dinner the first day. Personally, I think there are other ways to detoxify your body and reset your digestive system that don’t involve starving yourself, which I very much prefer.
What my toddler DID complete is three days without juice, while persistently asking at every opportunity. Fruit juice is usually not a beverage option for my toddler (more on that below), but while we were on vacation in Maui last week she enjoyed three (or was it four or five?) juice boxes over the course of our trip. Another family member had graciously taken care of the Costco run and purchased these Honest Juice Boxes for my daughter and her cousins. My sister has two kids who are older and drink juice on occasion, so these particular juice boxes were a good choice given that they are essentially diluted organic juice without added sugars. I decided I was fine with Iggy having this as a special treat for a few reasons:
She idolizes her cousins and was thrilled to be included (as you can see on her face).
We were on vacation and special treats are part of the experience—we had shaved ice too!
Like I mentioned before, when it comes to juice this was a clean option.
We spent a lot of time in the sun, and the juice served as extra incentive for her to stay hydrated.
I don’t want to be so rigid that I don’t allow her to experience things, or add extra allure to sugary items just because they are considered “forbidden”.
When we returned home from our trip, Iggy was having difficultly adjusting to the time change, weather, being an only child again after being with her cousins non-stop, and the lack of JUICE in our home. Every day for the first three days were home she asked for juice at least once. The conversation typically went something like this:
Iggy: “I want juuuiiiceee”
Me: “I hear that your thirsty! Today you can choose between water or milk.”
Iggy: Nooo… JUUUUIIIIICEEEE!!!.
Me: “We don’t have juice and the only choices are water or milk today. Would you like to pick out your cup?”
… you get the idea.
Yesterday was the fourth day we were home and guess what, Iggy didn’t ask for juice once and happily drank water at mealtimes! I’m grateful that consistency can (but doesn’t always) have such a quick impact on toddlers. So why don’t we have juice as a beverage option in our house? This is a decision that we have made (for the time being) for a few different reasons including:
Recent changes in the nutrition recommendations provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest no juice under the age of 1 and no more than 4 ounces daily for kids ages 1-4. Fresh fruit is preferable due to the presence of dietary fiber and lower amounts of sugar.
What the AAP doesn’t mention when they recommend fresh fruit over fruit juice is the difference in vitamin , mineral and enzyme content. In addition to having less sugar and more fiber, fresh fruit also hasn’t been pasteurized, processed and packaged! These processes increase shelf life and reduce the risk of unwanted bacteria growth, but they also compromise the nutrient quality.
Sipping on juice throughout the day can lead to dental decay. Even if you are able to limit the juice consumption to just one meal or snack then you have to say no to every other time they ask! It gets easier to be worn down by a persistent toddler or justify “just this once” or use juice as a bribe if its already in your fridge and on your toddlers menu.
My daughter enjoys eating fresh fruit! Why drink your calories (and fruit) when you can enjoy the recommended amount of fruit (approximately one cup per day) from local, seasonal offerings!
My daughter is sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations which is reflected in her behavior (another blog post on this connection coming soon!). She is prone to getting “hangry” when she goes too long between meals and sometimes struggles emotionally when she eats too much sugar or meals that aren’t balanced with high quality fats and protein. She is also VERY strong-willed and once I allow something once she doesn’t let go (keeping your kid’s temperament in mind when it comes to feeding is always helpful)!
Nutrient density is a priority to us in general, especially because my daughter is small for her age and usually doesn’t have a very big appetite. To ensure that she is growing and thriving, we offer her nutrient-dense options so we can feel confident allowing her to choose what she eats from those options. When we DO have sugary treats, we usually prefer cookies ;)
In closing, I want to say that just because we have decided to not offer juice to our toddler at this time doesn’t mean that it is wrong if you allow your kids to have juice! We allowed it on vacation and I feel confident in that decision. Other factors that may influence this decision are the age of the child, childcare arrangements, and the influence of older siblings. As Iggy gets older we will always be re-evaluating our feeding strategy. I love discussing things like this with other parents and learning from their experience. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments on this topic!