News & Events

Juice Abuse – More is not better

Matthew Leversee

Juice abuse is a phrase coined to describe the excessive juice intake by children, and often adults. Most people know that 100-percent fruit juice is healthy and a better choice than sugary drinks. The problem, however, is that many children are allowed and even encouraged to drink unlimited amounts of juice throughout the day without consideration that 100-percent juice has the same amount of sugar calories as soda pop or Kool-Aid. Even though the sugar in juice is natural, it is still sugar. In fact, apple juice naturally contains a large amount of sucrose, which is similar to plain white table sugar.

Most parents would not dream of allowing their children to guzzle soda all day, but many are not aware of the high sugar content of fruit juice. For instance, one-half cup or 4-ounces of juice has about 60 calories; this means that four to six 8-ounce glasses of juice will provide 500 to 700 extra calories per day! This amount of extra sugar and calories can cause rapid weight gain, obesity and increase the risk of illnesses such as diabetes.

Juice abuse also can promote tooth decay because of the high sugar content. This is especially risky if toddlers are allowed to carry a sippy cup or bottle of juice around with them all day. As far as their teeth are concerned, they may as well be eating candy all day!

Another concern is that excessive juice amounts create a poor appetite and poor weight gain. When children fill up on juice, they have plenty of energy from all the sugar; however, their appetite for other foods is greatly diminished. These children often become picky eaters.

The calorie problem with juice is the same for adults. Most adults can’t imagine eating three whole oranges or apples along with the rest of their breakfast each morning. However, they easily drink 12 ounces of juice, which provides the same amount of calories as three whole fruits. Drinking 12 ounces of juice per meal offers an extra 500 calories per day and that can add one pound of body fat per week! You would have to walk or run five miles per day to burn off those extra calories.

The solution to juice abuse is to eat fruit in its natural state as often as possible, limit juice to 4 ounces per day and drink plenty of water to meet your fluid needs throughout the day. Children should be encouraged to enjoy plain water from the time they are very young, this will help them avoid the cravings for sugar in juices much like an adult might have for caffeine in their morning coffee. Remember, the body is comprised of 75-percent water. So, put down the juice, pick up a glass of water and make the better choice for you and your family.

Matthew Leversee, is the coordinator of the Fit Kids of Arizona program. Fit Kids of Arizona is a regional community health initiative developed by Flagstaff Medical Center, Verde Valley Medical Center and Northern Arizona Healthcare to address one of the largest healthcare concerns facing our country – childhood obesity. The program helps children and their families learn healthy lifestyle choices while reducing the problems and illnesses associated with excess weight. The Fit Kids team focuses on assessing and improving the possible causes of excess body weight in children through medical examinations, physical activity counseling, nutrition counseling and behavioral change. To learn more about Fit Kids of Arizona, visit or call 928 214-3585.