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Our stash of reusable water bottles...

This weekend my husband got mad at me. The kids wanted to bring two juice boxes each along to the beach. I said no, substituting one reusable water bottle for one of the juice boxes. “What are you worried about,” he wanted to know. “Our kids are so skinny. I will be pissed if you’re thinking about the calories.”

I was, actually. (Although I was also thinking about the juice box waste factor…) Yes, my kids are thin, but that doesn’t mean they need to get 200 calories in a single day from juice. Sounds crazy, right, that each box has 100 calories? So what, my husband might say. (And he did.) My little one weighs all of 33 pounds. Her daily caloric intake should be 1,197 calories, according to the Baylor College of Medicine’s Children’s Energy Needs Calculator. That means two juices would account for almost 20 percent of her daily allowance. Big Girl is taller and older, so her recommended allowance is 1,847, but still, two juices is more than ten percent of her calories.

Before you read another line: I am not saying juice is bad. Juice can be a solid addition to a child’s diet. Juice drinkers, according to one 2012 study out of Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and Baylor College of Medicine, get real health benefits. The study found that kids who drank 100 percent juice have higher nutritional intake. Although to be fair, I couldn’t find the original study. I only found the press release from the Juice Products Association, which definitely gives me pause. But I digress…no, juice is not bad. Like any food, it’s really the dose. Almost anything is okay in moderation. Even my pediatrician said that eight ounces of juice a day was fine.

The real issue in all this is that I want my kids to use their calories for real food. I’d rather them eat some strawberries or an apple if they are hungry and drink some water if they are thirsty. Food helps fill them up. Water and even juice does not. Yes, juice tastes good. I know it. They know it. Which is why at home, we do drink juice, but tend to water down. Even I do it. I love pineapple juice so I will make a drink of 4/5 water and 1/5 juice. My kids do half water, half juice.

Getting back to the beach: The kids were really thirsty after swimming and playing and running. They drank their juice boxes, their water, AND a large portion of the water inside my 27-ounce reusable bottle. They didn’t even look for more juice. They wanted to sip and dash back to their fun, and reusable water bottles are more kid-friendly than having to stop and jam a straw into a box. Colder, too, since I always have ice in my bottle.

All these reasons are why, as we head into the school year, I’m skipping juice boxes and juice pouches for every day. Instead, I will start every morning by filling and packing reusable bottles, reserving juice boxes for field trips and field day — instances when bottles could get lost.

How about you? What’s your take on the juice debate? I’d love to know.

One Response to “How Many Calories Do Kids Need?”

  1. Laura S says:

    I have two boys, 7 years and 22 months. Neither are big juice drinkers. I’ve always offered water first, which might be why they aren’t big juice drinkers. I don’t think it’s wrong to give juice, but I agree I’d rather do water. Maybe if my kids asked for juice more I’d feel differently. I don’t know.

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