Introducing children to the habit of drinking natural juices can have several benefits for their health and well-being.
Here are some reasons why it can be beneficial to start kids on the habit of drinking natural juices:
- Nutrient-rich: Natural juices, especially those made from fresh fruits and vegetables, are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are beneficial for growth and development. They can provide a concentrated dose of nutrients that may be lacking in a child’s diet.
- Hydration: Juices can help keep children hydrated, especially if they are reluctant to drink plain water. While it’s important to encourage water consumption, juices can be a flavorful and enjoyable alternative, particularly during hot weather or when engaging in physical activities.
- Fiber intake: Some natural juices, especially those made from whole fruits and vegetables, contain dietary fiber. Fiber is important for healthy digestion and can help prevent constipation in children. However, it’s important to note that juicing removes some of the fiber content, so it’s also beneficial to include whole fruits and vegetables in their diet.
- Taste and variety: Natural juices can be a great way to introduce children to a variety of flavors and encourage them to consume fruits and vegetables they may not otherwise enjoy eating. Juicing allows for creative combinations, making it fun for kids to try different flavors and discover new favorites.
- Developing healthy habits: Introducing natural juices early on can help children develop a taste for healthier options and establish good dietary habits for the future. By familiarizing them with the flavors and benefits of natural juices, they may be more inclined to choose these options as they grow older, reducing their consumption of sugary beverages.
However, it’s essential to consider a few important points:
- Portion control: While natural juices can be beneficial, they should be consumed in moderation due to their natural sugar content. It’s important to offer them as part of a balanced diet and not as a replacement for whole fruits and vegetables.
- Fresh and homemade: When possible, prepare natural juices at home using fresh fruits and vegetables. Store-bought juices may contain added sugars, preservatives, or artificial ingredients that can diminish their health benefits.
- Dental health: Natural juices, especially those high in acidity, can contribute to tooth decay if consumed excessively. Encourage children to rinse their mouths with water after drinking juice and to practice good oral hygiene.
Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with a pediatrician or a nutritionist to ensure the specific dietary needs of your child are being met.
Freshly made natural fruit and vegetable juices can be a valuable addition to a child’s diet, providing a rich source of vitamins and minerals. However, getting children to drink these juices can sometimes be a challenge. While some children readily enjoy natural juices, others who are accustomed to commercially prepared sugary options may resist them. Additionally, some children simply resist drinking any type of juice for reasons unknown.
Parents who are committed to improving their children’s nutrition often turn to homemade natural fruit and vegetable juices. For parents with children who fall into the latter categories, here are some helpful tips to encourage juice consumption:
Developing the Habit:
In my experience with juicing, I’ve found that juices made in home juicers like the Breville BJE830BSS can be quite concentrated, which may be overwhelming for children. The thick texture and intense flavors can make it difficult for young palates to accept. To make juices more appealing, I recommend diluting them with varying amounts of water based on the child’s age.
When my children were too young for pureed baby foods, I introduced highly diluted apple, pear, and peach juices. These mild-flavored and watery-textured juices were well-suited for their infant palates. However, my child initially rejected peach juice, possibly due to its more acidic taste.
Between the ages of one and three, I gradually introduced other fruits like mangoes, bananas, and berries. During this stage, I also began incorporating small amounts of vegetable juices into the fruit juices, using apple juice as the primary mixer. Starting with carrots, which have natural sweetness, I increased the vegetable content until my kids were accepting juices that I would prepare for myself.
From around four years old and onward, I expanded the range of vegetable and juice combinations, including mixes with broccoli, celery, and spinach. It often took several attempts and different combinations to get the children to accept the new flavors, but they eventually did. Although I must admit that the broccoli mix had to be minimal to be accepted.
As the children grew older, I involved them in the juicing process, allowing them to choose which fruits and vegetables to mix. Sometimes, they came up with concoctions that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, but when they discovered a mix they liked, they took pride in their “invention” and drank it regularly.
Maintaining the Habit:
Encouraging children to drink natural vegetable and fruit juices isn’t just about supporting their growth and development; it’s about fostering a lifelong healthy habit. By introducing natural juices early on, during infancy and toddlerhood, you increase the likelihood that they will continue this practice into adulthood. However, it’s important to note that drinking juices doesn’t provide the same benefits as eating whole fruits and vegetables. In my household, we had a rule that we would only mix fruits and vegetables into our juices that we also consumed in their natural state. Homemade natural juices complemented our regular intake of fruits and vegetables.
As children reach high school age, spare time becomes scarce, and it becomes more challenging to maintain the healthy habits established in earlier years. Vending machines and school cafeterias may offer tempting commercially sweetened juices. Teach your children to read labels from a young age. When they choose juices outside the home, encourage them to select options with no added sugars or limited ingredients, focusing on a high percentage of real juice. Whenever possible, encourage them to prepare and bring their own juices from home.