May 31, 2023

Michelle Obama and her new Plezi juice drink for kids.

Michelle Obama’s new Plezi juice drinks are intended as an alternative to the sugary drinks that children often consume. (Illustration by Aisha Yousaf; Photos: Getty Images/Plezi)

Michelle Obama has been advocating for children’s health for years, including with her ‘Let’s Move’ campaign in the White House. Now the former first lady wants to change the food and beverage industry and announces that she is the co-founder and strategic partner of PLEZi Nutrition, which has just launched a new juice drink for kids.

The drinks are intended as an alternative to the sugary drinks children commonly consume, which are the No. 1 source of added sugar in American children’s diets. Nearly two-thirds of children drink at least one sugary drink a day.

So is PLEZi a healthier option? Here’s what nutritionists have to say.

What is PLEZi?

The drinks are for ages 6 and up and claim to have no added sugar, 75% less sugar than 100% regular fruit juices, and less sweetness overall. Each 8-ounce serving has 35 calories and contains about ¼ cup of juice, with water being the main ingredient.

PLEZi’s website states that water and milk, as well as fruits and vegetables, are “still the best options for your kids,” but the company acknowledges that it’s unrealistic to expect kids to stick to just those two types of beverages. to hold.

Sarah Pflugradt, dietitian and founder of Fueling Active Kids, tells Yahoo Life that it is “responsible on their part to recognize that water and milk should be the primary beverages offered.”

How do these drinks measure up nutritionally?

Experts agree that these drinks fit into a healthy lifestyle – with some minor caveats.

Unlike 100% fruit juice, PLEZi provides 2 grams of soluble plant fiber, which can help with blood sugar control, heart health and digestion. In the US, about 95% of adults and children do not meet their fiber needs (11 to 25 grams of fiber per day for ages 6 to 17). The amount of fiber in PLEZi drinks isn’t a substitute for eating whole fruit, but dietitian Amanda Sauceda tells Yahoo Life that it’s nice to have a juice that actually has some fiber.

PLEZi contains 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, although registered dietitian Lauren Manaker tells Yahoo Life that this may not be necessary as most people in the US are not deficient in this nutrient. Manaker also points out that while the drinks contain only 2% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium oxide, the mineral is not absorbed properly and “may cause gastrointestinal upset.”

But what really stands out about PLEZi is the reduced amount of sugar per 8-ounce serving: 6 grams versus an average of 20 or more grams of sugar in other juices. Experts note that too much sugar can increase children’s risk of cavities, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

PLEZi significantly reduces the sugar by using the non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) stevia and monk fruit. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement takes a neutral stance on sweetener consumption by children and notes that further research is needed as the long-term safety of sweeteners in childhood has not been assessed. But in general, non-nutritive sweeteners have been linked to less dental caries, though research is mixed on their effect on weight and blood sugar.

While sweeteners generally taste sweeter than table sugar, PLEZi says their drinks help adjust kids’ palates “to crave less sweets overall.” However, Manaker warns that “offering sweet drinks, regardless of the sweetener, may still encourage habitual consumption of sweet drinks.”

The bottom line, says Pflugradt, “If you choose to let your kids consume stevia or monk fruit, it’s really a personal decision, as even the adult research is conflicting.”

Should Kids Avoid Fruit Juice — Or How Much Is OK?

The AAP recommends limiting fruit juice to 4 ounces to 6 ounces per day for children 1 to 6 years old, and no more than 8 ounces per day for children 6 to 17 years old.

Despite concerns about having too much sugar, 100% fruit juice provides important nutrients, including calcium, potassium and vitamin C. Research shows that among children and adolescents aged 7 to 18, fruit juice consumption is moderate (6 to 8 ounces per day). day) was not associated with weight gain.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most kids don’t meet their daily fruit recommendations. While this new drink addresses the overconsumption of sweetened beverages, one concern is that for some, substituting 100% fruit juice could further reduce produce intake.

The final verdict

Ounce for ounce, at just under $4 for a 4-pack, these drinks command a higher price than 100% fruit juice, notes Manaker. If that is out of budget, parents can simply dilute 100% fruit juice as an alternative.

But in general, experts agree that PLEZi appears to be a reasonable alternative to existing sugary drinks. For kids with type 1 diabetes, Pfulgradt adds that PLEZi “can give them a ‘fun’ drink, which isn’t always possible when you’re trying to control blood sugar.”

Pflugradt adds: “It’s important to teach younger children how to balance, which means choosing water for most of the day, but it’s fine to have a drink like this once a day too .”

Maxine Yeong is a dietitian and certified health and wellness coach.

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