The watery juice trend

by Jessie K on January 16, 2013

IMG_5061Nearly every single mom I know — including me — waters their child’s juice down to the point of turning into a cup of faintly colored water. We all do this. It’s like a generational compulsion; this quest to turn our children into joyful spelt eaters whose delicate constitutions prevent them from digesting anything yummy.

Our moms didn’t do this when we were kids.  We were allowed to drink all the undiluted juice we wanted, cup after lip smacking cup, mouths ringed crimson and orange. Or blue, if you were one of the kids lucky enough to be served Kool Aid by your parents, which I wasn’t.

Back then, juice was considered “good for you!” Now the consensus is “it’s nothing but sugar! Get that orange stuff away from me!”

How did this happen? When did juice — poor, misunderstood juice — become the enemy? I suspect this modern disavowal is part of a broader backlash to all the unnecessary sweeteners, additives and high fructose corn syrups that have crept into packaged foods since we were kids….into foods where it legitimately does not belong, like potato chips, canned soup and ketchup. Conscientious parents have to be vigilant about preventing their children from developing a super size taste for insanely sweet foods, and juice — even the freshly squeezed stuff — gets lumped into this category. And grape juice? Forget about it! I don’t know a single mom who serves their kid straight grape juice, the progressive parent’s version of mainlining crack.

I don’t plan to stop watering down June’s juice anytime soon, but I do think it’s funny how we all go out of our way to explain to each other why we do this even though we all do it. I’m surprised more juice manufacturers haven’t jumped on this watery trend, marketing their product as “specially formulated for toddlers” and charging an arm and a leg for a jug of faintly colored water.

And when you ask a grandparent to water down your toddler’s juice? They look at you like you’re uptight. Busted!

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

peggi January 16, 2013 at 10:45 am


I saw a report recently about orange juice. They said that when they store it they remove the oxygen in the tanks to help it keep longer. When they take it out of the tanks it doesn’t smell or taste like orange juice because it has lost something from being stored. They have to add something to give it back its flavor so it really isn’t 100% orange juice. (some sort of chemical or something but I can’t remember what they said it was)

Cassie January 16, 2013 at 10:49 am


I think what Peggi is talking about is something called a Flavor or Orange Pack. Thats why fresh squeezed tastes so much better than the stuff you can buy at the grocery store. Or if youre like me and youre too lazy to squeeze the stuff yourself, I just buy my OJ at the local farmers market. I dont have children and rarely drink juice because its bad for your teeth, but if youre gonna have it might as well drink the real stuff!

Laura January 16, 2013 at 10:53 am


now I feel guilty for not watering down my kids’ juice- and I’m a nurse, I’m supposed to know better.

sarina January 16, 2013 at 10:55 am


I water my own! I think that the commercially available juice drinks.. even tropicana stuff is just too sweet/strong tasting. I am not doing it to the point of it being colored water.. but I do probably put about 25-30% water in it.. to make it taste better to me.

I was also not a kool aid kid. We didn’t have sodas.. and the only time a sugary cereal like lucky charms would make it accross our threshold was when it was our birthday. As a treat, we were allowed to pick out one box of the ‘good stuff’ sort of like a birthday present.

It was funny.. my mom really tried to keep us out of stuff with obscene amounts of sugar.. but I still managed to get my fix. I used to go into the bar and take those drink mixes they used to sell (powdered mai tai..or whiskey sour mix) and I would eat it like a pixy stick! I am sure my mom thought my dad was a raging alcoholic at the rate those mixes disapeared! Also explains why my dentist asked me if I drank a lot of lemonade as a kid.. haha.

Chuck Smith January 16, 2013 at 10:59 am


It’s always something.

But I might take more notice when I see a WalMart shopper load their cart with OJ and Grape Juice instead of Coke and Dr. Pepper.

Chris C. January 16, 2013 at 11:03 am


Hmm . . . my mom and the mom across the street when I was a kid totally watered down our juice. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I knew what un-diluted grape juice tasted like! So maybe my mom was just 30 years ahead of the trend? Or a big hippie? We also weren’t allowed kool-aid or pop or sugary cereals or snack food like Doritos!

Julie January 16, 2013 at 11:13 am


Busted! -and it just seems like straight juice would be so harsh on a little ones tummy. Sugar and acid. Ouch.
I’m convinced my mother-in-law thinks I came from another planet.

Paula January 16, 2013 at 11:23 am


Guess I’m the odd one out here. I drink a small, normal size glass of real, undiluted juice about two mornings a week. The rest of the time I have fresh fruit with my breakfast.

When I was a kid, my parents canned all our tomato juice from their own tomatoes, and canned all our grape juice from locally grown concord grapes (the kind Welch’s uses), which they had picked.

Kool-aid was only for birthday parties, and they only bought enough Cokes for each person to have two a week. If you drank yours up right away, too bad.

Jill Adams January 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm


Growing up we didn’t have Kool Aid either nor sugar cereal; it was too expensive. I remember loving to sleep over at my friend Kristi’s house because they had all sorts of sugar cereal; I always looked forward to waking up and eating breakfast at her house. I buy my kids sugar free Kool Aid and it doesn’t taste that bad. On family movie night I buy a 2 liter of Cream Soda too! I know I’m a bad mother letting my kids drink soda. What can I say, I want my kids to enjoy a little sugar. I’ve found my kids look forward to movie night and savor their one glass of soda as we watch a family show or work on a puzzle together, or play Monopoly. Anyway, as much as I love water and force my kids to drink water, once in a while we need flavor! (A good tip: Add a teaspoon of vanilla to your OJ; my kids love it and I feel good seeing them drink a bit of vitamin C. As a kid I loved drinking OJ with the pulp and all! When did kids get so dang picky!)

Paula January 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm


You are not a bad mother; you’re teaching balance.

Jill Adams January 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm


Thanks Paula!

Paula January 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm


Well, you’re welcome. I’m thunderstruck by the obsession to ruin pure fruit juice, or deny it as it was meant to be used, as part of a balanced breakfast.
Now if we were talking about king size candy bars, giant 32 oz. cups of non diet soda, fried food every day, or a quart of juice as a snack, I could at least understand the angst.

My uncle in CA managed a citrus grove for most of his working life, and lived in the manager’s house on the premises until he retired. We visited them for a week once, and there was fresh orange juice every morning (grapefruit was available, too) and fresh lemonade available in the fridge (although I suspect the constant presence of lemonade was for the benefit of the guests). They limited their sugar by only having rich desserts on special occasions, but not by eliminating orange juice for breakfast. They lived normal life spans in good health.

sarah saffran January 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm


I think Mott’s does make a toddler version..watered down…but why would I pay for them to add water? I can do that for free at home..

Janelle January 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm


I water my own down by 50%. I read a long time ago that if you water your juice down by that percentage or more, it counts as a glass of water. My kids, now 8 and 11, have caught on to “watering-down” trick. I still water it down but only by about 25%. “Yuuuuck, Moooommmm! It tastes like waaaateeeerrrr!” [read with a whine.] I can’t get away with it that much now.

Paula January 16, 2013 at 1:14 pm


I simply don’t understand this obsessing about a moderate intake of pure juice. My mother would never buy juice drinks, and I don’t either. They were seen as poor people food, a nutritionally watered down version of the real thing, sold to the uneducated.

Every kind of juice provides nutrients and has advantages to offer the digestive system. A standard six ounce serving of juice with breakfast part of the time never hurt anyone. The problems started when mothers started letting little kids have juice between meals, and letting teenagers drink it by the tumbler full.

Janelle January 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm


I agree, Paula. Juice is for breakfast and only breakfast in our house.

Jill Adams January 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm


You bring up a good point; one glass of juice isn’t going to hurt, moderation is the key I think. Enjoy the good stuff once in a while.

Sal January 28, 2014 at 1:29 am


Juice all day is a lot of sugar. If kids eat the fruit, they might stop at one orange, but if they take a glass of juice, that can be as many as three or four oranges. If your kids are active enough and don’t have fragile stomachs, it’s no big deal. In adulthood, that much juice can be a big contributor to your waistline. Just look at everything that goes into a single serve at a juice bar. It’s often more fruit than I would eat in a whole day! But the yogurt is low-fat so I suppose it’s meant to be okay.

Caitlin January 16, 2013 at 4:22 pm


I don’t know. Maybe the HFCS rationale is new, but the practice certainly isn’t. My mom did it to us (possibly under a “sugar is bad for your teeth” rationale thanks to my dentist dad). And my grandma does it, too! She did it to us when we were kids, and she still does it to herself. For her it’s a depression-era thriftiness thing. Most juices are too sweet for me to drink straight. I even ice my tomato juice, which most people think is weird until they try it.

Molly O January 16, 2013 at 6:19 pm


My parents always watered down our juice, I suppose a combination of keeping the sugar intake down and keeping the grocery bill down!

I did watch a show one time on how terrible juice is for us. Even real juice. This is the example they used: an 8 oz glass of orange juice has 6-8 oranges in it. Who would eat 6-8 oranges in one day?!? No one. Even fruit juice with pulp doesn’t have nearly as much pulp as eating an actual orange. It’s the fiber in the pulp that helps your body process the natural sugar in the orange. Your body just can’t process all that sugar, as natural as it is, as well as it would if you were eating the entire orange (or eight entire oranges). Anyway, I’ve reduced my juice intake since watching that talk but I still buy it once in a while.

Now excuse me while I go pour myself a glass of highly-processed apple cider (it’s just sooooo good!).

kirsten January 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm


When our kids were little and we went out for supper…..(a very rare occasion) we would order a pitcher of cherry coke and a pitcher of water. Guess what…..I mixed them!! the kids called it “pop-water”. :)

Cynthia in Denver January 16, 2013 at 10:46 pm


My father was the sole bread winner on a military enlisted salary with 5 kids. Our juice got water for economical reasons.

Now I’m a grown married gal, I buy juice and freak out when my husband guzzles it down!!! I have my mom’s voice in my head about how expensive juice is to buy!

Charlotte January 17, 2013 at 10:56 am


We never got juice or pop as kids — my parents were milk or water people. Mostly milk — they were sort of fanatics about drinking milk. We’d get one of those little tiny Cokes every so often as a treat.
So I’m not a juice person as an adult (nor do I drink pop) but my sweetheart buys the frozen concentrate — lemonade or cranberry — then adds some to cheap bottles of club soda to drink while hiking or on a job. Fizz, a little flavor, but not so much sugar …

Paula January 17, 2013 at 11:42 am


I am surprised to see this as an either/or thing. As a child at breakfast I had either a small glass of juice or banana on my cereal. I always drank milk for lunch and dinner, until I was old enough to be allowed to choose iced tea or water. Usually apples or tangerines for snacks. Balance.

Today we shared a huge naval orange at breakfast, but for Sunday brunch we’ll probably have orange juice. I hear my grandmother in my head saying “eat a little of everything and not too much of anything and you’ll be healthy.”

Kelly January 17, 2013 at 10:57 am


Ha… I think it is so funny because everyone really does do it! I used to water down the juice when they were little but a few years ago (when they were 2 and 5) I decided that I was being ridiculous. We now treat juice just like soda or other sugary foods. It’s a treat that they have once in a while (usually at Grandma’s house) and they drink it full strength. Though sometimes I do make them “cocktails” with juice and sparkling water. But since we rarely ever buy it, it isn’t that much of an issue.

Jessie K January 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm


My friend Susanne told me she gets teased by her mom and sister for watering her kids’ juice down so much they have dubbed it “juice essence.” Ha ha ha!

Bethanny Parker January 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm


Back when my older kids were toddlers (mid-90s), all the parenting magazines were saying to limit juice intake to 4 oz. per day. It wasn’t that juice was bad, just that it tastes really good and many toddlers, if given the chance, will fill up on juice and not be hungry for milk, meat, or vegetables. Fruit alone doesn’t provide all the nutrition they need.

Liz Templeton January 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm


I used to buy the frozen “Five Alive” juice and instead of putting in 3 cans of water, I put in 6. The kids loved it and never knew the difference. I still do that today with cran grape juice, 1/2 cup of juice and top it off with 1/2 cup of water, just tastes better.

Jessie K January 23, 2013 at 10:00 am


I agree!

SMum January 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm


My mum ALWAYS made us drink watered-down juice, dubbed “wapple juice” (for water and apple juice). Now I think normal juice tastes way too strong and I water down my own, and my children’s!

Jessie K January 21, 2013 at 9:44 am


Wapple juice — love that!

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