The simplest change preschools can make to improve kids’ eating habits is this: Stop serving juice.

I don’t mean stop serving juice drinks, like Hawaiian Punch. That’s a no-brainer. And everyone knows to eliminate soda. I mean stop serving 100% fruit juice.

  • Hydrating with juice increases total calorie consumption
  • Regularly drinking juice, which is sweet, reinforces the sweet-taste habit. In this way, beverages are related to overall habits.

1) Kids don’t compensate for juice calories at snack by eating less food.

In one study:

  • Serving juice instead of water increased snack calorie consumption by 67%.
  • The bigger the juice box, the more kids drank. When the kids got a bigger water, they drank more water too, but they didn’t drink as much MORE as when they drank juice.
  • The children in this study reported liking the water and the juice equally.

Here are some other reasons to eliminate juice from the preschool snack:

2) In general, kids drink too much 100% fruit juice. And they’re not just drinking juice at school.

The AAP recommends that children drink no more than 4-6 ounces of 100% juice each day. However, research shows that children who drink juice consume an average of 10 ounces each day.

Eliminating juice at school would help bring our kids’ juice consumption down to the recommended level.

3) Kids consume too many of their daily calories from snack. Eliminating juice is an easy fix.

Research shows that kids 2-6 years old snack more frequently than they used to, that they consume more calories from snacks than they used to and that more of those snack calories come from beverages, especially juice.

The typical preschool snack, such as a small pouch of Goldfish crackers, delivers a little over 200 calories. Add in a small, 4 ounce juice box, and you add 60 calories. Combined, this snack delivers close to 20% of the average preschoolers’ daily caloric needs.

Eliminating juice is the easiest way to reduce calories from snack. And unlike the challenges preschools face when it comes to changing the kind of food served at snack (cost, storage, refrigeration, taste preferences, etc), eliminating juice has no downside.

4) Drinking juice isn’t the same as eating fruit. 

Research shows:

  • Eating whole fruit may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, while drinking fruit juice may raise the risk.
  • Whole fruit curbs appetite better than juice.

Read The Juice Generation.

5) Juice consumption can actually reduce vegetable consumption.

In one study, when children were given a sweet juice drink with a vegetable snack they consumed fewer vegetables than when they drank water with their snack.

Read Water vs Punch and Soda.

6) Ounce for ounce, juice often has more sugar than soda.

This graph is hard to read, but click on the image and you can see the original from the Harvard School of Public Health.

  • Cola: 12 ounces = 10 teaspoons of sugar, 150 calories
  • OJ: 12 ounces = 10 teaspoons of sugar, 170 calories
  • Welch’s Grape Juice (not shown): 12 ounces = 13.5 teaspoons of sugar, 210 calories 


~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Sources: Norton, E. M., S. A. Poole, and H. A. Raynor. 2015. “Impact of Fruit Juice and Beverage Portion Size on Snack Intake in Preschoolers.” Appetite 95: 334-40

Piernas, C. and B. M. Popkin. 2010. “Trends in Snacking Among U.S. Children.” Health Affairs 29(3): 398-404.

Reedy, J. and S. Krebs-Smith. 2010. “Dietary Sources of Energy, Solid Fats, and Added Sugars Among Children and Adolescents in the United States.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 110(10): 1477-84.

Center for Science in the Public Interest. 2013. “Fruit 2, Juice 0” Nutrition Action Healthletter,40(9): 8; Wojcicki and Heyman, 2012, American Journal of Public Health, 102 (9): 1630-1633.

Cornwell, T. B. and A. R. McAlister. 2012. “Contingent Choice: Exploring the Relationship Between Sweetened Beverages and Vegetable Consumption.” Appetite  doi: