01/26/2012 04:32 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2012

Training Toddlers' Taste Buds: Juice vs. Froot Loops

A study published by the Center for Disease Control just made a radical recommendation: after-school programs should stop serving 100 percent apple juice. I agree.

A new CDC study reports that apple juice doesn't provide enough bang for its buck -- too much money for too few nutrients. I think after-school programs should give apple juice the heave-ho for another reason: It's ruining our kids' eating habits.

As a sociologist who coaches parents on teaching their kids to eat right, it's clear to me that apple juice is no friend to families.
  • Apple juice trains tiny taste buds in the wrong direction: towards sweet flavors (and, therefore, away from vegetables).
  • Apple juice pretends to be healthy, but it's not. Apple juice is really fortified sugar water.

If you give your kids juice for the nutrients, you would be better off giving them Froot Loops instead.

A serving of Froot Loops has more vitamins than apple juice. It also has less sugar.

Of course, giving your kids Froot Loops every day would teach them the wrong habits, and it would get their taste buds used to too much sugar, but that's the point.

I'm not really suggesting you start serving Froot Loops on a regular basis. (I'm not looney!) It's a comparison, though, that makes you think.

Most 100 percent apple, grape, punch, and other "kid-friendly" blends have around three grams of sugar per ounce. For a point of reference, Coke has 3.3 grams of sugar per ounce. Add some vitamins to Coke and Coke beats juice (because we're honest about it).

True, most 100 percent apple juice is made from juice concentrate, a natural sugar, but your kids' taste buds can't tell the difference.

  • According to the USDA, juice concentrate is a euphemism for added sugar. In other words, sugar is sugar.
  • 100 percent juice may give your children 100 percent of their Vitamin C needs, but that's only because the Vitamin C has been added. In other words, apple juice is fortified sugar.
There are lots of other delicacies that have less sugar than juice, but you think of them as occasional contenders, not daily delights.

Kids come out of the shoot ready for sweet; you don't need to encourage it. The CDC study recommends that after-school programs eliminate 100 percent apple juice and serve a banana and tap water instead. Same cost, better value. You should consider doing this too.

As for apple juice? Teach your toddlers to use juice like candy -- sparingly as a treat. It's the habit your kids will need for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Parts of this post appeared previously on

© 2012 Dina R. Rose, author of the blog It's Not About Nutrition. Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.

This post has been revised to reflect the fact that the recommendations for after-school programs' come from a specific report, published and funded in part by the CDC.