Among Jamaican juice guru Melvin Major Jr.’s many regular customers at his old haunt, Lifethyme (where he juiced before opening Melvin’s Juice Box), was Buddha, a toddler with green juice-loving parents. “He drank the Sweet & Dandy since he was nine or 10 months old, just a little light on the ginger, and he still comes in and drinks it,” Major says.
And now, he’s got one made especially for him, with the recent debut of Melvin’s Juice Box’s “Melvin’s Junior” menu, a selection of juices and smoothies in kid-friendly sizes and flavors. Booming New York juice shop Juice Press also just launched a kids menu, with mini smoothies made from fruit and nut milks.
Major says there was a real demand for the smaller portion sizes and lower prices for little ones, and that despite recent media controversy about “kid cleanses,” the menus are about getting fresh, healthy foods to growing New Yorkers. But many have questions…
Juice, as it used to be understood (Capri Sun, anyone?) is often blamed for being a contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic, mainly because of its high added-sugar content, “but you also need to consider what kind of juice, when it was made, and from what ingredients,” says nutritional consultant Barbara Mendez. “Juices that are fresh-pressed and made in the moment contain no added sugars and have the benefit of being unpasteurized, therefore they have a load of healthy enzyme activity that can help with cellular repair and regeneration.”
Which is exactly how Major explains his product for kids. “We just do basic organic fruits and vegetables, so it’s good sugar, and they get lots of good vitamins and nutrients and live enzymes.”
Juice Press founder Marcus Antebi also stresses this distinction. “The difference between the sugar in raw juice and processed sugar that’s been isolated from the nutrients is night and day in chemistry. It’s unbelievable,” he says.
Still, many nutritionists, like New York and Los Angeles-based Shira Lenchewski, RD, recommend sticking to the juices and smoothies that balance fruit with vegetables (or other ingredients, like Juice Press’ homemade almond and coconut milks). “I think it’s crucial to ask how much fruit is going into these drinks,” she says.
A generation not afraid to sip their greens
“I would recommend anything that encourages kids to consume raw, fresh vegetables and fruit,” Mendez says, stressing that like anything, juices and smoothies should just be part of a balanced diet.
Plus, if you get a wee one hooked on greens early… “Kids pretty much love the green juices. You don’t see any funny looks on their faces or anything. They take it, they just keep sipping it, you can tell they really love it,” says Major. Which isn’t exactly the reaction you get when you tell them to eat their broccoli. —Lisa Elaine Held