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Healthy Drinks: Large Portions may Disguise Health Benefits

So this child is walking down the street carrying a 12 oz. apple juice in hand…he passes a teen guzzling a 16 oz. chocolate milk.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Some of you may say “fiddlesticks”—but I think there is an emerging and dangerous trend, of which we, as parents, need to be aware.

We are a society bludgeoned by portion distortion at every corner we turn.  When given larger portions, over and over, we begin to believe that these are normal, and we get accustomed to consuming these larger quantities of food and drink.  Half-pound burgers.  Pizza slices on steroids.  Gigantic Gulps.  Double-sized bagels.

Traditionally, juice and milk have been considered healthy drink options. When consumed, 100% fruit juice and milk, both flavored and non-flavored, can provide a healthy dose of nutrition–far better than your cola, lemonade, or sweet tea, right?!

Here’s the hook:  Portion size!  According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the recommended portion size of 100% fruit juice is 4 ounces and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the maximum consumption of juice for children is 4-6 ounces per day (aged 1-6 years) and 8-12 ounces per day (aged 6 years and older).  In turn, the recommended portion size for milk is 8 ounces, with a targeted daily intake of 24 ounces per day (3 cups). 

Currently, the distortion of portions is being imposed upon our traditionally healthy drinks.  What was once the standard 8 ounce portion of milk is now ballooning to a 12 ounce and 16 ounce container.    The standard 4 or 6 ounce juice box, can now be found in much larger quantities.  Certainly, some may say that individuals can make their own choice, and larger portions are just an example of another option.

What is dangerous with this approach is the notion of “healthy options”–a very misleading concept in this context.  What would appear to be the “more is better for your health” approach preys upon the naivete of many Americans, especially children.  In the case of manufacturing larger containers of milk and 100% juice, a double, and in some instances, a triple impact on caloric consumption ensues.  Do our children really need to be drinking 200 calories from juice in one sitting?  And how is that different from the caloric content of soda?

What great confusion when children are given the options of 12 and 16 ounce portions of 100% juice and milk in school vending machines!  Not only are these portions excessive related to the recommended daily consumption, they fail to emulate normalized portions.  And because of this, they perpetuate portion distortion in our most vulnerable population, children.

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  1. This is scary! It drives me crazy when I see a four year old eating a whole doughnut… But I guess juice and milk are more sneaky