It’s every parent’s worst nightmare when their children refuse to eat their vegetables or fruits. In babies and toddlers, most often, it’s vegetables that trigger a sharp headshake and zipped lips. Sniffing, staring, tasting, and finally after gagging (probably fake, but boy—kids are good at this) a standoff ensues. It doesn’t matter if you beg or bribe, some children won’t budge. What do you do? You can continue to struggle or you can try juicing for kids.
Juicing for Kids – Basics
For those of you familiar with juicing, you can skip a few lines. If not, juicing is the extraction of juice from fruits and vegetables. The extraction process is typically done with a juicer, be it a masticating (slow) or a centrifugal (fast) juicer. A masticating type juicer extracts juice that has a longer shelf life, but a centrifugal juicer works much faster. Fresh juice offers many health benefits by increasing your energy levels, immune system, and provides many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend giving babies, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain health issues fresh juice from restaurants or juice bars due to possible higher levels of bacteria in the unpasteurized juice. This is often a result of the cleaning procedures and preparation process of the juice. It is perfectly safe to make fresh juice at home as long as you thoroughly cleanse the items coming into contact with your produce and the produce itself.
With that said, you should be aware of a few things before you start:
- When I refer to juice, I don’t mean the store-bought variety. This is freshly extracted juice full of vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes. Store-bought juices tend to contain added sugars, dyes, and most nutrients are killed in the pasteurization process.
- All juices do not contain the same number of calories or nutrients.
- Ginger is spicy. Use it sparingly.
- Make it fun by letting them help and use different colored straws and funky cups.
- Never put a child on a juice fast. Feasting is the better option.
- Kids get bored, so mix it up with a variety of juices.
- Concerned about the fiber? Use the remaining pulp when making bread, veggie burgers, muffins, and smoothies.
- Keep it clean to avoid foodborne illnesses.
Always speak with your pediatrician before giving juice to a small child or infant. Depending on the age of your child, your pediatrician might suggest holding off on giving him juice until he’s older. Consider the following loose schedule when you begin adding solids and juice to your child’s diet. Pay close attention to your baby’s signals. It’s the only way he can communicate with you until he can speak.
Children less than six months
If your child is less than six months of age, the only nutrition a baby needs is breast milk or formula. Yes, it gives them everything their tiny little bodies require. Children this young do not even need water until they begin eating their first solids, like rice cereal. Also, some babies are ready for solids at four months of age, but you should delay adding juice until they are at least six months.
About six months to a year
After you have begun introducing solids, you can begin giving your infant juice. Never give her juice in a bottle. At this age, introduce her to the cup. Most infants begin sitting unassisted as early as four months, but others do not master the skill until around eight months. It is perfectly fine to start juicing with fruits. Fresh juice is more potent and rich than the juice you will find at the store. For instance, you would not start them on green juice. It would be far too bitter and would upset their stomach.
Instead, just as you would start with apples or pears as a fruit, begin juicing one of these since they tend to be easier on the tummy. Do not give them much juice. Using a 1:1 ratio (maybe more), dilute it with filtered water. Some parents dilute it with more water as a precaution because babies have more sensitive stomachs than older children. If the juice ratio is too high, then it will upset her stomach.
One to three years
You should have introduced a variety of textures and foods into your toddler’s diet. Feel free to serve her around four to six ounces of juice, but try not to give her anymore than that. You should still dilute the juice with a 1:1 ratio to avoid upsetting her tummy. Also, as she ages, you can let her begin assisting you in the juicing process. Do not discourage her from helping out. Kids tend to enjoy helping, even if they really aren’t doing much. In their eyes, they are being a huge help.
Four to twelve years
Suddenly, your child stops eating the foods they seemed to enjoy. Some children stop eating certain foods when they are around two or three, but others stop eating particular foods as late as the age of four. Often, this lasts until they begin school. When children are around others their age, they tend to conform to the group. For others, it can last into adulthood. It can be tough, but stay positive and gently encourage him to eat a wide variety of healthy foods.
At this age, allow them to help out more in the preparation of their meals and juice. Not only does it make their food more appealing, but it also builds confidence in their abilities. If you find your child rejects vegetables and greens, toss a few greens into the juicer along with their other items. Continue to dilute the juice somewhat until they are closer to the age of twelve. As children grow, their stomach adjusts, and you will no longer have to dilute it.
Over twelve years
Children can have pure juice, but avoid giving them more than ten ounces a day. At this age, the majority of their nutrients should come from wholesome foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, some dairy, and small amounts of fat. A well-rounded diet is extremely important for their development. Supplementing with fresh juice is a great way to deliver extra or missing nutrients from their diet.
Not sure where to start? It’s fine to juice apple, orange, and most other fruits alone, but if you want your child to absorb more nutrients, mix it up with different recipes. Here are a few recipes to consider:
Veggie-Apple: About a ½ a cup of spinach, 1 or 2 stalks of celery, and 1 green apple
Orange Juice: Consists of 3 carrots, 2 to 3 stalks of celery and 1 apple (green or red)
Pearry Fun: Two pears, ½ cup of spinach, and ½ a lemon
Power Juice: 1 green apple, ½ beetroot, ½ cup of spinach, and ½ a lemon
Don’t be afraid to mix up the recipes and try new things. Even if you do something as simple as add a bit of spinach and lemon to fresh orange juice—it’s something different.
It’s a fact that the majority of people in the U.S. do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 76 percent of individuals did not consume enough fruits, and 87 percent did not consume enough vegetables. It is important to put healthy choices, like vegetables and fruits, in front of your children at a young age.
As an adult, you understand the importance of eating wholesome foods instead of fatty, sugary foods. Since your children are naturally inclined to want to be like mom and dad, it’s best to fill your plate with lots of nutritious options. Final advice? Keep trying to offer a well-balanced diet, including those delicious greens. Eventually, your child’s palate will adjust to them. In the meantime, continue supplementing their diet with homemade juice that not only tastes great, but is packed with nutrients.
Zoey Garcia is a part time blogger and a full time nurse. She is the founder and editor of juicingjournal.com, an avenue for sharing her passion about juicing, plant based diet and living a healthier lifestyle in general.