So when she does nutrition consultations, it's one of the first things she suggests eliminating — all sweetened beverages — including 100 percent fruit juices.
But Sarah Ladden, dietician and nutrition communications manager for the Juice Products Association, says 100 percent fruit juice helps Americans get closer to their recommended amount of fruit and vegetable servings. And she says there is no scientific link between obesity and fruit juice consumption.
But in the patient population Mirza sees, overweight and obese children, it isn't unusual to see 800 to 1,200 excess calories a day coming from juices and other sweetened drinks.
Another issue with fruit juice is its impact on the dental health of children, Glazer says. "Definitely don't give children fruit juice in a bottle that they go to bed with," or you'll soon be dealing with cavities.
Juice, milk and soda
Another downside with fruit juices is they might displace something that children really need. Like milk. "You don't want to deprive them of what they need. Milk has protein and calcium, which are very important for growing children," Mirza says.
So, is fruit juice as bad as, say, soda?
Not quite, Mirza says.
"Fruit juice is better than a sweetened soda because you are getting some vitamins," Mirza says. "But the calorie content is about the same."
Actually, it can be less in a soda. In Coca-Cola, for example, eight ounces translates to 97 calories, compared with the 120 calories for the same amount of orange juice.
But sodas also often contain high-fructose corn syrup, which is more taxing for the body to process than naturally occurring sugars, Mirza says.
The bottom line
So, what is the message? Skip fruit juice completely?
"The best thing to do is to try to get kids used to drinking water," Ciuba says. "You can always slice up fruit or add berries to the water to get some flavor into it."