A new study in Pediatrics examines which fruits provide the USDA’s recommended 1-2 cups per day for children. Surprisingly, 100% juices were considered fruit, even though they don’t have the same nutrutional advantages as whole fruit. Michael Specter uses the movie “That Sugar Film,” starring Damon Gameau, to make that point:
In one particularly frightening scene, he downs a smoothie from an airport Jamba Juice which contains a hundred and thirty-nine grams of sugar—that’s about thirty-four teaspoons, or about five times the recommended daily intake.
“What a great jet-lag cure,’’ Gameau says, only half in jest. He then explains, with the help of a nifty graphic, that to consume an equivalent amount of sugar in “actual” food he would have had to eat four peaches, nine limes, thirty lemons, and thirty strawberries. The point, of course, is that nobody eats real food that way.
Real food, unlike sugar, is its own best regulatory system. Four apples contain sixteen teaspoons of sugar—way more than the recommended daily limit for added sugars. But few people want to eat that many apples, because the fruit contains fibre and other nutrients that help tell our bodies when we are full. Turn those four apples into juice, however, and you can circumvent the body’s signals, basically mainlining the excess sugar directly into your bloodstream. You get the bad stuff without the good stuff. (This is the American way. White bread is also the bad stuff without the good stuff: it’s made from wheat that has been stripped of the portion of the grain that contains fibre and other nutrients.)
As you might have guessed, apples were favored more than any other fruit for children 2-19 years old. The children in the study managed to consume 1.25 cups per day, with 100% juices accounting for one-third of their intake. Here’s how their preferences broke down:
- Apples — 19%
- Citrus juices — 14%
- Apple juice — 10%
- Other juices (like grape) — 9%
- Bananas — 7%
- Melons — 6%
- Fruit salad — 6%
- Citrus fruits — 5%
- Berries – 4%
- Peaches and nectarines — 4%
- Grapes — 3%
- Dried fruit — less than 1%
The study suggests that although children are getting enough fruit every day, only a little more than half (53%) comes from whole fruit, one-third (33%) from 100% juices, and the rest (14%) from fruit “drinks” and “mixed dishes.” And most kids don’t like variety in their fruits: more than half (55%) of what they consume is from apples and apple juice, citrus fruits and citrus juices, and bananas.
Kids can’t be expected to eat a large variety of real, whole fruits unless their parents eat them and offer them regularly for meals, snacks, and desserts. And even then, there’s no guarantee they will eat them. But as we’ve seen on The PediaBlog many times, the more kids see and touch and taste foods that initially repel them, the more likely they will learn to eat (and love) those foods.