Is Juice Really Bad for Kids?

Kara Rosen Plenish

The anti-sugar movement has set juice firmly in its sights but is all juice bad for kids? We talk to Kara Rosen, mother and founder of award-winning juice company PLENISH, about healthy family life, why not all juices are what they seem and her viral Telegraph interview.

Once considered healthy, fruit juices and smoothies have come under fire recently as parents wise up to the dangers of sugar. Can juice still play a part in a healthy diet for kids?

It’s really important for children to reach for water when they are thirsty, and keeping juice completely out of their reach when they are really small will set up good habits for later in life. That way, juice does not become a tool for hydration, but a snack or a sweet treat on occasion.

Children, ideally, will get most of their nutrition through fresh vegetables and fruits – learning healthy eating habits from the outset. Kids want to eat what mom or dad (or big brother/sister) is eating, so make sure you are leading by example.

I would advocate continuing to try to get your children to drink water and eat fresh produce for a long period and not use juice or smoothies as a substitute or trying to ‘hide’ veggies. Instead, get them in the kitchen cooking, peeling, making pictures with their veggies. Keep sticks of cucumbers, carrots, celery and peppers cut up handy and some hummus or peanut butter for dipping sessions when they are waiting for a meal.

I allow my daughter to drink a cup of green juice or smoothies as a snack if I’m having one, but not as a food replacement.

Juices are often said to be less nutritious than smoothies because the fibre is removed. Do you agree?

In a word, no! Both are great and can be used for different purposes. When you blend a smoothie, 100% of the fruit or veg that you put into the blender gets whizzed up into your smoothie, including the fibre which is great for keeping you full.

In comparison, when you juice, you remove a part of the insoluble fibre, which allows you to cram in a lot more nutrient-dense produce into one glass. At PLENISH we use a 4:1 veg to fruit ratio in our green juices to make sure sugar content is low, but nutrient content is high. Fibre slows down digestion so when you remove it, your body can absorb the nutrients in juice in under 15 minutes, delivering you sustainable energy.

Your book contains some brilliant nut milk recipes. Government advice in the UK is still heavily weighted towards giving young children lots of dairy. Is cashew milk the norm in your house?

I’m not a big believer in dairy, although recognise that it can be very scary to move away from. I never really enjoyed milk, but always had it in my diet from cheese or hot drinks. I gave it up when I was trying to get pregnant and have never looked back. We don’t consume cow’s milk in our house and use a lot of other milk replacements like nut milks. At home, we eat a lot of calcium rich plant based foods like broccoli, kale, lentils and almonds.

Shops and supermarkets are trying to get in on the green juice act. What should parents keep an eye out for when buying so-called ‘healthy’ juices off the shelf?

The main thing is that green juice does not necessarily mean healthy. My advice is:

  • Make sure there is more veg than fruit. For example, Innocent just launched a green juice that is 79% apple. It has more sugar than a can of coke. Make sure your juices are at least a 4:1 veg to fruit ratio.
  • Make sure it’s organic. The great thing about juicing is it extracts a huge amount of produce and nutrients into one glass. Do you know it’s also excellent at extracting pesticides? Make sure you’re not feeding you or your family a lovely bottle of pesticide juice! The positive is that organic produce provides up to 4 times the amount of anti-oxidants compared to conventionally grown produce. Even though organic can be more expensive, you do get more nutrient bang for your buck.

Kara Rosen

What’s the deal with cold-pressing?

Cold pressing refers to the type of juicer you use. It’s two stainless steel plates that use tons of pressure to literally press the living daylights out of your vegetables or fruits. It yields a higher amount of nutrients from produce (compared to a traditional juicer).

Which juicer would you recommend for anyone starting out with juicing at home?

I like the Biochef slow vertical juicer.

You follow a very healthy diet. Are you strict about what your daughter eats at home?

I think strict sounds like we have heaps of rules, and we’re a foodie house. We buy healthy groceries, and cook delicious meals so in essence, she can eat whatever she wants and doesn’t ever feel limited at home. Quite often she chooses what she wants for a meal – standing in front of the fridge like we grown-ups do!

If there is no white bread, fried stuff, fruit juice or processed sweets in the house, it doesn’t even enter the conversation. We all love food and, that way, when we go out to a restaurant or a party, or playdate, I am super relaxed about what she eats as it’s only occasional –and she really enjoys it (as we all do).

Which are your daughter’s favourite juice recipes?

Belle loves cashew m*lk and PLENISH Mind Body Green.

What tips would you offer parents trying to introduce vegetable based juices into their kids’ diet?

Just let them have a sip of yours and pretend you don’t want to share.

Which fruit or veg is king, and why?

Eating a rainbow of colourful veg and fruit is your best bet as you’ll get the whole spectrum of phytonutrients. That being said, I really depend on organic kale and spinach. Calorie for calorie, kale has more iron than read meat and more calcium than milk. Keep both on hand to use as a base for salad, throw into smoothies, scramble in eggs, or sautee with other veggies, or add a bit of oil and seasoning as a side dish.

Your ‘Day on a Plate’ for The Telegraph went viral. Do you think there is still a level of cynicism towards healthy eating? Is it different here in the UK than in your native US?

I’ve been living in London for over 6 years, so not up date with the US tone but, yes, I think the UK has a really great sense of humour and it has more ‘bite’ than the US.

There is definitely a bit of food shaming that happens, but I’m up for it! Bring on the kale salad vs. twix debate any day!

What are your favourite places to eat healthily as a family in London?

We love breakfast at Granger & Co. on Westbourne grove, Le Pain Quotidian, Alounak (a great Persian place) and the Electric.

Want to recreate some of the PLENISH magic in your kitchen? See our and Kara’s picks of some great child-friendly juices from her book. 

Plenish Recipes
Kara Rosen is the founder of award-winning cold-pressed juice company PLENISH. Recipes and juicing tips extracted from her book, PLENISH: Juices to boost, cleanse and heal (Mitchell Beasley). Photography by Mowie Kay.