When little cherub-cheeked Sofia Davella thinks the coast is clear, the 6-year-old drags a footstool alongside the fridge in order to reach her favorite forbidden goodies on the high shelf. But it’s not a stash of sugary confections that the Long Island City first-grader craves. It’s the mystery green and purple juices that are part of her mom’s cleanse program.
“I get upset — they’re expensive, up to $80 a day,” says mom Sandra Davella, a 44-year-old banker.
“I have to buy extra because I know she’s going to take it,” she adds, noting her daughter will drink as many as three juices a day, particularly kale.
“She’s not a french fry kid.”
Among Sofia’s favorites: Juice Press’ “Fountain of Youth” and “Glo.”
Junior juicers like Sofia are taking a cue from their health-conscious parents, and getting in on the act themselves — starting with juices and raw foods and graduating to modified cleanses, all in the name of cleaner living, if not weight management.
In Sofia’s case, she supplements her juice-drinking with favorite foods such as shumai dumplings, sauteed kale and edamame — not to mention the occasional slice of pizza.
“She still needs the food — she’s 6 years old,” says Sandra.
But you can’t argue with the digestive benefits, adds Mom.
“If I’m doing a three-day cleanse and I order for her, she goes [to the bathroom] every day.”
While trendy local juice shops don’t specifically market their potions as cleanses for children, they are being used to replace meals and traditional snacks.
“For adults and kids alike who are trying to lose weight, these raw and organic drinks are a great kick-starter,” says Stephanie Walczak, founder of Rawpothecary, an NYC-based health food company.
She adds that green juices and protein blends are particularly popular with parents looking to supplement or replace children’s meals.
“It’s complete nutrition.”
Others go even further.
Dherbs.com, a California-based company, markets a set of four Children’s Cleanse liquid extracts for $99 that are meant to be paired with a raw diet and promise “to nourish and cleanse” everything from the lungs and liver to the adrenals and colon. The program is aimed at kids ages 2 to 12, and can be customized for up to 14 days.
“In the last few years, we’ve seen an increase of almost 50 percent in sales of Children’s Cleanse,” says company representative Jamelle Dolphin.
And that’s causing alarm among medical professionals.
Dr. Marisol Gonzalez, who specializes in adolescent medicine in Summit, NJ, says she finds it distressing — though not uncommon — when kids pervert adult-sanctioned lifestyle choices, such as a cleanse.
“The [kids are] quoting Dr. Oz to me,” says Gonzalez. “[But] unless you’re doing [a medical procedure such as] a colonic [or a] colonoscopy, kids need to eat.
“The parents want their kids to lose a few pounds and ‘eat healthy’ — but your body needs a certain number of calories for your heart to beat. If [you cleanse] before puberty, you can delay growth.”
And, she warns, an “awareness of cleanses at a very young age could lead to eating disorder behaviors.”