In case you haven’t heard, there’s been a recent, albeit, subtle war on fruit juice. With the population ever increasingly becoming overweight, even children, the government and health officials have raised the alarm on sugary drinks. The case has been made that all sugars are created equal, so a soft drink falls into the same category as a fruit drink.
While real fruit juice can have nutritional value, it pails in comparison to the amount of sugar it contains. Worst is if the drink has been stripped of its fiber (pulp). This isn’t to say, though, that fruit juice with pulp is okay. In fact, except for the nutrients it has, it’s basically just sugar and water. So the argument is that kids should avoid fruit juices until much later in life. I have personally stopped drinking sugary drinks, and not because I’m suffering from any adverse health effects, but rather through sheer concern about doing what’s right for my body.
When it comes to my son, I prefer to offer him fruits rather than drinks. Fruits can also carry excessive amounts of sugar so, as parents, we need to be careful here too, but fruits can’t be stripped of their fiber so the sugar goes into a child’s blood stream at a slower rate. So while fruits can be loaded with vitamins, I personally think fruits are still a treat and should also be given in moderation. The science supports this. So while fruits are better than junk foods like chocolate and snack bars, they are only so at the level in which they contain vitamins the body needs. So for the record, fruits are bread to contain excessive sugars.
I know I’m talking around the issue a bit, but it’s complicated. This is why we often seemingly hear conflicting research studies from the scientific community. The fruits we eat today are extremely plentiful by historical standards – and also year round. They’ve been bread to be super big and super sweet. We simply aren’t adapted to eating such huge sugar loads throughout the day.
An American diet for example, is loaded with sugars. For starters, we might eat toast and cereal for breakfast. Straight away we’ve eaten two carbohydrates – complex sugars (still sugars to the body, albeit better than a white sugar, but not by much). At lunch we eat a sandwich (more carbs) with a fruit and fruit drink, then at dinner we might eat pasta with garlic bread. This puts our body into sugar, sugar, sugar. Yes we might mix in some other food items like vegetables and protein, but these are usually out of the right ratio to make good health.
I’ve settled on a 60% veggie, 20% protein and 20% carbohydrate ratio. I try to do this at each and every meal. Even though I don’t always get there, it’s still a good target to hit. If I’m still hungry I try not to reach for a sugar fix, instead I make myself another complete meal with the same ratio. This keeps things in balance. Naturally, I’m not super-human, so I still suffer a need for a straight sugar-fix once in a while. If possible, I’ll try for a protein snack option such as humus or even beans. These can quickly put your hunger to rest. If you can, try to start your toddler off in this same way and maybe he won’t have to suffer from sugar highs and lows that the rest of the American population suffers from. I’m not as opposed to high fat content as previous diets have proposed, just for the reason that I think our bodies have evolved to tolerate high fats – especially from animals.
While I’m no diet expert, I do try my best to work and re-work foods to help my family live healthily. Giving up excessive carbohydrates like breads, cereals, cookies and other desserts is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. After a while your body comes to crave the highs/low cycle that comes with sugar. What I wanted to try to do is avoid this with my son by balancing his diet early on. While it’s still just an experiment, it does follow current nutritional guidelines for a healthy diet. Although there’s a slim chance that you’ll follow this diet yourself, it does provide you with something to think about at your next meal!
Oh and for the record, my son had a choice of water or milk from his 1st birthday. He was breastfeed until then and ate solid foods from 6 months. We prepared about half of his solid foods from scratch – really it’s not hard to mash stuff up!