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Coke Beats Juice

A while ago I suggested you give your children Candy with Breakfast.  It was a serious proposal, intended to make the point that if you set the amount of daily candy your children can eat, then it doesn’t matter when they eat it.

Now I’m suggesting you give your kids Coke for breakfast!  OK. This time I’m not serious, but stay with me here for a moment.

Before we get to Coke, though, let’s consider juice. The rationale for giving kids juice goes something like this:

  • It’s nutritious (or at least, nutritious enough).
  • Kids like it.

Now consider the pros and cons of giving kids Coke for breakfast:


  • Ounce for ounce it has less sugar than most 100% fruit juices, fruit drinks, sports drinks and many other carbonated beverages.  (See the table at the bottom of this post.)
  • Kids like it.


  • It has absolutely no nutritional value.
  • It teaches kids the wrong habit about drinks. (But at least we tell kids Coke is junk.)

I admit that the negatives for Coke are pretty bad.  What if you could up the nutritional value of Coke? Would you serve it up to your kids in the morning?

We can eliminate the nutrition-deficiency objection rather quickly.

Do you know about Diet Coke Plus? According to The Coca-Cola Company, Diet Coke Plus is, “A sparkling, calorie-free beverage with vitamins B3, B6 and B12, and the minerals zinc and magnesium.”

And Diet Coke Plus has no sugar.  Maybe it's better than juice!

If we served nutritionally-enhanced soda, the argument for giving kids Coke in the morning would rely on the same rationale we use for juicing them up.

  • It’s nutritious.  (I’ve heard that in Europe Diet Coke Plus even has Vitamin C, but I can’t verify it… it adds an interesting twist to my argument though.)
  • Kids like it.

And the cons?  The most important one still applies.

  • It teaches the wrong habits about drinks - sugary sweet can't be beat!

Ditto for juice!

Give your kids lots of sweet and they'll come to expect lots of sweet.  Try tempting them with asparagus after that.

If you are going to give your kids juice for breakfast, you might as well give them Coke (Plus).  And if you would never regularly give your kids Coke for breakfast, why in the world would you constantly give them juice?

Save juice (and Coke) for treat time.

Read Juice: Apple, Grape, Punch, and It Doesn't Matter WHAT Your Kids Eat!

 ~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~  

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Reader Comments (25)

First of all, this isn't very good reasoning: Coke's sugar comes from High Fructose Corn Syrup, and Juice's sugar is all natural. Cokes' vitamins are limited and artificial; juice's vit's are plenty and all natural. Coke should never, ever be a replacement for juice, even if it's 'healthy.' Seriously; if you're that concerned about your child's coke intake, be a parent and DON'T let your kid have soda in the first place. They won't miss it; trust me.

March 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStoich91

Well, I did say I wasn't serious about suggesting people give their kids Coke instead of juice. But if you take a look at the ingredient label on most juices -- especially apple, the type most commonly given to young kids -- you'll find the vitamins aren't there naturally, they are added by the manufacturer. Orange juice is probably the one exception in terms of naturally having vitamins.

Plus, according to the USDA, concentrated fruit juice concentrate is...none other than sugar! Maybe that's why there is a relationship between early juice consumption and later soda consumption.

My point is this: foods that raise our kids' sugar threshold should be used sparingly because they have an affect on what other things they are willing to eat.


March 26, 2010 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

Why should kids drink juice? My answer: to keep them regular! Two of my three are prone to constipation and apple juice helps, Matter of fact, the one-year-old pretty much requires 3-4 ounces of juice a day to keep things going well. My four-year-old much prefers milk to juice (although she usually is all about the sweetness factor - go figure), and then requires medication on a fairly regular basis. I'm not saying this negates your reasoning, since this is at least somewhat unusual, but I thought it might be worth adding to the info.

March 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTonia


Thanks for your comment.

Apple juice can indeed help keep kids regular, but have you ever wondered why? Fiber is the key to keeping things moving and apple juice doesn't have any. So why does it work? The concentrated sugar causes the bowels to, you know... A better strategy (for lifelong habits, as well as for immediate nutrition) would be to give your kids actual apples - and other whole fruits. This would increase their fiber intake. Then add more water to their diets and they'll probably be fine.

Pediatricians and dietitians recommend no more than 4 ounces of juice per day, but they're not usually talking about apple and grape juice. They're usually thinking about orange juice. And their advice comes from a nutrition perspective. From a habits perspective, my point is that kids who repeatedly consume sweet flavors often reject other flavors and the veggies and other natural foods that we're always hoping they'll eat aren't usually too sweet. You have to take the whole diet into consideration when you are trying to figure out how to teach kids to eat right. And juice is part of that diet.


March 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

Thanks for taking on juice -- not an easy one. I love juice a bit too much myself and realized I needed to stop drinking my calories. So we "ran out" of juice a few weeks ago. I haven't purchased juice boxes in months. My 3-year-old is mad at me. I get weird looks because I still water down my nearly 6-year-old's apple juice. But when I found the older one was sneaking juice boxes and cans of Coke Zero, I decided I didn't want to have this argument anymore. It's water, milk, and non-caffeinated tea around here, and they're free to have juice as a treat when we eat out or at a friend's. The clementines and apples are disappearing more quickly from the fruit bowl on the dining table...

March 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarienne

Hi Dana!

I do see your point, however, I guess I didn't include my underlying supports:

1. Juice can be watered down (and nearly always is, around my house); coke cannot.
2. Jucie creates a taste for fruit; soda (diet or no) creates a taste for...zoiks...more soda.
3. Juice contains a full serving of fruit; coke, nada.
4. Coke either has high-fruitctose-corn syrup (unless you're opting for the rare Kosher variety, made with plain sugar) or aspertime, as in coke plus' case (the coke mentioned in your article). Juices' sugars are all natural. There is no comparison; sugars have been scientifically proven to break down in the body differently (HFCS always coming out on the short side when compared to plain sugar, let alone the natural sugar found in fruits!), and aspertime has been linked to serious morbidity in test rats. Fun.

I think it's rediculous, either way, to compare juice to soda; even the FDA thinks so. Apparently, on "Coke Plus", "The FDA said it does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages, with vitamins and minerals, and then to try and promote the snack food's nutritional value." More:

The moral of this story? If watered down (which is the entire point of a concentration), fruit juice is not only better than anything soda manufactuers can dream of, but the scientific evidence dosen't support Coke Zero, Plus, or otherwise. Had this article said "Fruit Jucie should be watered down; here's why", I'd probably be re-tweeting it by now. :) However, the claims are skewed and this article defies science, the FDA, and just plain good healthy reasoning, which is why I spoke up.

Thanks for considering!

March 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStoich91


I agree with you (and the FDA) that it is wrong to fortify snack foods with vitamins and minerals so they can be promoted as nutritional. That's why I was never serious about giving kids Coke Plus instead of juice.

But most juice is fortified too. That's the only way, for instance, that apple and grape juice -- the kinds of juice kids are most likely to be drinking -- have any vitamins at all.

On top of that, there is plenty of evidence that drinking servings of fruits or vegetables doesn't provide the same nutritional benefit as eating fruits and vegetables. Manufacturers are big on counting the servings of fruit and vegetables in juice, but nutritionists speculate that the nutritional difference between fruit and juice has something to do with the fiber, which gets lost in the juicing.

The argument against high fructose corn syrup is complicated, and the jury is still out on whether or not it is worse for you than regular sugar. If you want to read more on that read Marion Nestle's blog but I think the form of sugar is not really the point here, because I'm not making a nutrition argument. I am talking about habits.

There is no evidence that drinking fruit juice creates a taste for fruit, but there is evidence that drinking fruit juice creates a taste for sweetened beverages, including soda.

Anyway, if you have to water something down, how good can it be for you? If you want to give your kids juice as a treat, I think you should go ahead and do it. But, as I've said before,giving them juice on a regular basis is creating a sweet habit that might have unintended consequences.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.


March 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

Hi Dina!

First off, sorry for misspelling your name in the first post. :)

I think the title of your article, "Coke Beats Juice" is a bit misleading (as are several statements in the article, itself), if you weren't serious about giving coke to kids. I do see now that the entire article has a bit of a sarcastic slant (*Maybe [diet coke] is better than juice!*), but the point I'm trying to make is that fruit juice, however terrible it may be (and I agree with you on a number of ideas), should never be compared to coke, even sarcastically, because they only compare on sugar content.

When I claimed that juice offers a serving of fruit, I did not say that fruit juice was "as good" as fruit; indeed, it is not. As you mentioned, there is a variety of differences between real fruit and fruit concentrate (and my favorite fruit drink, "Izzy", which I only drink in moderation :), actually has a warning on the label to enjoy real fruit as well as fruit juice...). However, fruit juice is a lot closer to "fruit" than coke, which is the idea I was after. I'm very interested in seeing the evidence backing the claim that juice creates a direct craving for soda. The link is probably very weak, if not non-existent. I agree (as do many Pediatricians and scientific studies) that juice should be 100% juice, diluted, and drank in moderation.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that relating a natural juice (even in concentrate form) to an aspartame-riddled soft drink on sugar levels, alone, is not only unfair, but it's also unscientific. Perhaps juice needs a little "bad rap"; so many parents feed it to their children like it's liquid gold, unaware of the negative consequences of fruit juices. But putting it side by side with coke in this format might allow the reader's mind to take an entirely different journey; one that may not have been intended, but that could ultimately be harmful.

Thanks for hearing me out! :) This certainly is a thought-provoking post. I am (certainly :)) interested in children's health and I have already learned quite a bit about harmful effects of fruit juices (and coke!) as a result.

March 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStoich91

I was just wondering your thoughts on raw juice. Neither raw juice or raw milk are listed in the Nuval system and I would think that raw juice would would have a lot higher score.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily Weaver Brown


I'm not sure how raw juice would score in a system like Nuval. I would think that juices closer to their natural state would score higher than more processed ones. Then again, raw apple juice is still apple juice and, unfortunately, apple juice doesn't have a lot to offer kids. So I guess it depends upon the kind of juice you're talking about.

From a habits perspective, juice should only be used in small quantities: it gets kids used to drinking a lot of calories, it gives them the idea that it is an equivalent to actual fruit, and it gets them used to flavored beverages instead of water.

Having said that, I would love to know what the score is for raw juice, if you ever find one.


April 1, 2010 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

it's good to see this information in your post, i was looking the same but there was not any proper resource, thanx now i have the link which i was looking for my research.

Research Proposal Dissertation


Glad I could help. Good luck with your dissertation.


April 26, 2010 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

I get you. A sugary drink is a sugar drink. Water is a better option. Milk at breakfast for us. White milk. We sometimes offer decaf iced tea--homemade, not filled with anything but tea and water-- at dinner.

Pro-juicers needs to remember that the overwhelming majority of juices available are pumped full of artificial sweeteners, extra sugar, and so on. Even juices called 100% pure can be treated in a way that concentrates more fructose per serving making them just as calorie loaded as the rest.

Pure, untreated juice is expensive and uncommon, unless you happen to be VERY lucky enough to live somewhere where you can buy fresh fruit for cheap cost and have the time and resources to make juice yourself.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAK

Hello, I was wondering what your opinion is on sucralose. I am sure you will say that it is still training our selves and children to crave sweet drinks. But thought I would ask what your overall opinion is.
I tend to buy V8 Splash drinks for my kids, it has about the same sugars as apple juice but it is a bit more vitamin fortified.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather


You guessed it! I think that sugar is sugar and that anything that trains kids to crave sweet things is something to be used with caution. V8 Splash drinks are OK as an occasional treat, but I wouldn't make any juice a staple. That's particularly true if you're having any trouble getting your kids to eat vegetables and other non-sweet foods. You mention that the V8 is fortified: if you're worried about nutrition, try giving your children a vitamin and then weaning them off the juice.

Thanks for your comment.


July 12, 2010 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

we have it so ingrained in our minds that juice is healthy that people seem to get quite distressed to imagine that it is equivalent to soda. but you are absolutely correct, sugar is sugar in our metabolic system and to our tastebuds. sugar from 100% fruit juice raises our blood sugar, thereby raising insulin levels, as does hfcs sugar in soda. same thing, one being "natural", one supposedly not. i drank a lot of 100% fruit juice as a child, some of it raw apple and carrot juice (which sounds so wholesome) and i had 20 (!) cavities by the age of 2, multiple cavities in each tooth. it has continued to be a lifelong problem for me.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremily

It's a great point about the amount of sugar people consume but I realized you never mentioned the content of caffeine in coke (or how bad it is for your teeth). If you consider it, juice beats coke. Please don't encourage those irresponsible parents who feed their toddlers with coke and then complain about their behavior to keep doing so just because of the conclusion of your article. Coke is not just bad from a nutritional level because of its sugar content and it is not unhealthy just for kids but for adults as well.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge L.


I don't think anyone believes I was seriously recommending Coke - especially since I say upfront that I'm not seriously recommending Coke. I was using the comparison to make a point: That juice, like Coke, can lead to bad habits.

Thanks for your input about the caffeine; it's a good point.


September 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

While thinking about similarities of coke and juice and the habits they create, I just remembered how easy it was for my mum to pass juice diluted half to half with fizzy water as soda to me when I was a kid. Apparently they seemed similar enough for me. So if tastewise the only difference is fizz, than it makes me sure enough there is a grain of truth in this juice leading to soda claim

November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYidete

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