When it comes to beverages we seem to all be convinced that kids need something to drink besides water. The juice box or drink pouch commonly makes its way into the grocery cart. Fresh fruit is a much better source because of the fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals still present that are processed out when fruit is made into juice. I am a firm believer that if a beverage must be served with a meal, then that beverage should be water.
From the Eastern nutrition perspective, beverages should only be consumed between meals, and cold sweetened beverages during meal-time are a big no-no. It is important to let the stomach receive the meal at a warm temperature and not to shock the digestive system with an ice-cold drink while you are eating warm or hot food. Furthermore, it is believed that juices or sodas will ruin your stomach for a nutritious meal, or what westerners would term "spoil your appetite".
In East Asian culture, elders make sure that any beverage that a kid wants is had after the completion of the meal. Interestingly, western research dovetails on the nutritional merit of this age-old philosophy. Consuming your calories in solid versus liquid form (food vs. beverage) plays a role in whether or not your body knows it is full. We may not get the same satiety cues from drinking our calories than we do from eating them, and there is evidence to show that energy intake and weight gain skews high if calories are consumed as a beverage. Perhaps spoiling your appetite has morphed into not being able to tell if you are still hungry in today's food environment in which we are surrounded by sweetened beverages.
TIP: Even if you don't subscribe to the Eastern practice of drinking beverages except water only between meals, I do recommend that you serve mostly water and limit regular sodas and sweetened beverages to rare occasions for your child.
I invite you to take the Water Challenge: for one week, challenge yourself and your kids to drink more water than any other beverage. Download the Beverages Tracking Log to help track what you and your family drink throughout the week.
For more information on how sugary drinks impact people, read this CNN Health article describing a study that links a small glass of juice or soda a day to an increased risk of cancer.