I have long been opposed to fruit juice. As a life-long dieter I know just 6 oz of the stuff packs a whopping 100 calories and not much else. I’d rather have some chocolate. As a doctor I know fruit juice is associated with childhood obesity and kids allowed to to take a bottle of juice to bed risk cavities.
So when we started introducing foods to Oliver at 9 months I never considered juice (I wasn’t neglecting Victor, he was just not having any of that food nonsense, thank you oral aversion!).
The first juice exposure came at the age of 18 months. Hospitalized with croup, on oxygen, and unable to eat , Oliver was getting dehydrated. To spare him an IV the nurse suggested we try juice. “Sure, why not?” I replied.
Dear God, could that boy drink juice. Gallons. Oliver’s love of juice got him through 4 major hospitalizations for pneumonia without an IV. That’s right. Fever of 104, on oxygen, delirious but that boy could pull it together long enough to slug back 4 ounces before passing out again. At home, since he was having trouble gaining weight, I figured what the heck. The medical literature clearly indicates that juice is associated with excessive weight gain, so I said BRING IT ON!
But he is almost 7 years old and he wears size 4. He is the 3rd percentile for weight and 7th for height. His bum heart and bum lungs require a lot of calories, about 1,800 a day. The problem is he only gets about 1,200.
I watched him eat like a hawk for a week. Pediasure for breakfast, lunch at school so who the hell knows (although juice box always emptied when nothing else is touched), and a glass and a half of juice often drained at the dinner table before his first bite of food. And then after 3 bites, all done.
Hmmm. Could the empty juice calories be the cause?
We discussed it, lots of crying. No more juice before a meal. Ever. More crying.
“Milk is OK,” I said. Whole milk has more calories and also provides one big thing juice is missing: protein. Preemie lungs chew up protein like crazy while they repair themselves.
After few tearful meals Oliver has accepted the juice ban. Sometimes asks for water and sometimes milk and I am OK with either. He is eating more. Not a lot, but more. He still asks – that boy is nothing if not persistent. I tell him he can have it for dessert, but usually he chooses ice cream (another great way to sneak in calories and some extra protein).
I am still OK with juice in the hospital. It’s better than an IV, but that’s about all it’s good for.