Quench their thirst with healthy drinks

By Bev Bennett

If the frequent cry of "Mom, I'm thirsty," has you reaching for the fruit juice as a Pavlovian response, you may want to look for more options.

Although juice is a wholesome beverage, it's only one of several you could be offering. What's more important, juice isn't your best choice for quenching thirst because it contains sugar, says Christine Palumbo, a registered dietitian. "There's nothing magic about juice," says Palumbo, an adjunct faculty member of Benedictine University in Lisle. "Fruit juice should not be used as a thirst quencher. That's what water is for."

To break the fruit juice habit, develop a beverage strategy now during the warm weather months when children crave more fluids. Here are pointers from nutrition experts.

• Encourage your family to drink water as part of their routine.

"Drinking water leads to better nutrition habits," says Palumbo. "I see so many adults who aren't used to drinking water and take a sweetened beverage instead. If your child sees you drinking water, he will too."

Thanks to the popularity of bottled water, this isn't the hard sell it was a few years ago. Buy a water bottle featuring your child's favorite fictional character, fill it with water and keep it in the refrigerator so it's ready for camp field trips or back yard adventures.

Switching to water from soft drinks or sweet fruit drinks can be challenging.

"Children may not like the taste of water. Water is more palatable if you keep it well chilled and serve it with a slice of lemon or lime. If your children still balk, start with half juice and half water," says Palumbo.

• Include milk in your drink plan if your children don't have a dietary restriction that prohibits dairy products.

Milk is the most convenient food source of calcium, which is essential for growing children. About one third of preschool children aren't getting enough calcium; nor are the majority of teens, according to Melissa Joy Buoscio, a Chicago--area dietitian and manager of consumer communications at the Midwest Dairy Association.

Children age 2 and older can drink reduced--fat or fat--free milk instead of whole milk. If your children don't like the taste, or slightly pale color of fat--free milk, add a squirt of chocolate syrup.

And if your children lose their appetites for full meals and prefer to nibble during the summer, Buoscio suggests revving up their energy by serving milk or smoothies snacks during the day.

Buoscio's smoothie formula is one cup of reduced--fat milk; 1 cup low--fat yogurt; 1 cup fruit juice; 2 cups frozen sliced fruit and one banana for a creamy texture to yield a quart of smoothies.

• Serve fruit juice in moderation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends one four-- to six--ounce serving of juice for children ages 1--6, and eight to 12 ounces of juice for children ages 7--18. Drinking too much juice is associated with malnutrition, diarrhea, bloating, gas and tooth decay, according to the AAP. (For more information search the Web site at

When you buy fruit juice look for 100 percent fruit juice on the label, says Palumbo.

"Avoid so--called juice labeled ‘drink,' ‘punch,' ‘cocktail,' ‘beverage' or ‘ade'. I'm not knocking them, but you should realize they're not 100 percent juice, but sweetened beverages," she says.

Your best bets include orange juice and 100 percent grape juice which has antioxidants that promote heart health, Palumbo says. If your children don't consume dairy products, choose calcium--fortified orange juice.

Peach Smoothie 1 cup reduced-fat milk 1 cup fruit juice, preferably peach nectar, pineapple or apple juice 2 cups frozen sliced peaches 1 cup peach-flavored yogurt 1 medium-sized ripe banana

Place the milk, yogurt, fruit juice, frozen peaches and banana in a blender. Process until frothy and light. Makes 1 quart; 4 servings.


Bev Bennett, the mother of two, is a food and nutrition writer living in Evanston. Her latest book is 30 Minute Meals for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons).


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