The media has covered recently the impact of regularly giving children fizzy drinks, juices and cordials on both dental health and overall health. We now know that in fact fructose plays a key part in this.
Firstly out of your ‘five a day’ recommendation I would advise that 4 of these are vegetables rather than fruit- this one portion of fruit would include any smoothies or fruit juices you may choose to give your children.
Fruit sugars i.e. fructose are not the same as glucose. They have a different effect on the body. Primarily the fructose is metabolised by the liver into ‘palmitic acid’ which suppresses leptin and this leptin is the hormone which tells us we are ‘full’.
What this means is fructose isn’t an appetite suppressant, in fact it has the opposite effect that you can eat and eat and eat without feeling satisfied. Because they aren’t satisfying, they also have addictive qualities- you might notice this when they can’t stop eating that whole punnet of strawberries!
Because of this I would argue that fruit is considered a ‘treat’ and vegetables are the main source of vitamins and minerals. Of course whole fruit has the bonus of fibre being present, so this would be a good option over ‘fruit snacks’ because absorption of fructose is delayed. But for that same reason, fruit juices should be limited.
In adults, our bodies can efficiently process two small pieces of fruit each day- but this assumes you have no other sugar intake in your diet, therefore it’s always good to play safe with one piece in each of your 5-a-day.
All of these will of course have an effect on tooth enamel but the perhaps more obvious effects are sudden spikes in energy (that sugar high we talk of as parents) and then craving more sugary foods.
If you want to choose some healthy options for drinks for your children I can recommend the following:
A large jug in the fridge with chilled herbal teas. Camomile, peppermint or vanilla teas are great. Fruit teas are also good as they are infusions but consider that they would need to brush teeth well that evening.
Water infused with fruits can also be very appealing- choose low GI fruits like melon, berries or kiwi for kids rather than banana or orange.
If you have a juicer and feel this is a good way to get your child to get their vegetable intake without a battle at the dinner table then choose a juice that is predominantly vegetable based. I can recommend a juice of celery, spinach, and a small chunk of pineapple or gala apple blended with ice and avocado. Alternatively carrots with one small orange as a treat.
With smoothies I recommend that you blend Total Greek yoghurt, a small handful of blackberries or blueberries and a splash of vanilla essence. You can add almond milk or organic cows milk too.