Most parents know that soda isn’t good for young children, but deceptive marketing tactics trick them into believing that juice drinks are a healthy alternative. They’re not. Most popular children’s juice drinks contain little fruit, extra calories, and loads of sugar. For example, eight ounces of soda and eight ounces of apple juice both have over 6 teaspoons of sugar.
Juice Drink Vs. 100% Juice
When developing our new Sugar Bites campaign, we had a lot of discussion about juice. To start with, what’s the difference between juice drinks and 100% juice?
Juice drinks are beverages that do not contain 100% fruit juice and are loaded with added sugar and unnecessary calories. They have little to no nutritional value. On the label, look for drinks called juice drinks, fruit drinks, cocktail, beverage, or punch.
100% Juice means that everything in the container was expressed from a fruit or vegetable although not always from the fruit or vegetable indicated on the label. Sometimes fruit from cheaper fruits/vegetables are used to supplement whatever the drink is purporting to be because it was too expensive to all come from the same fruit.
Serving 100% Fruit Juice
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if parents do serve juice, it should be 100% fruit juice only and limited to four to six ounces a day. That’s only ½ to ¾ a cup, so it is a very small amount. Despite this AAP limitation, most preschoolers drink twice that amount every day.
This is concerning because drinking juice of any kind can increase children’s risks for tooth decay, childhood obesity, and type II diabetes. Drinking juice is not the same as eating whole fruit because it lacks fiber, which helps to slow down the digestion of natural sugars found in fruit. Juice makes it easier for children to take in more calories because they don’t feel full.
Sweet beverages like juice can also lead to bad eating habits by training kids to prefer and demand something sweet. So when it comes to juice, follow these tips:
- Serve real fruit as much as possible. There is no benefit to consuming juice instead of whole fruit.
- When kids are thirsty, serve water.
- Try adding slices of fruit to a glass of water.
- If served at all, nutritionists recommend serving only 4-6 ounces of 100% fruit juice one time per day. Watering down juice and serving it throughout the day can lead to tooth decay.
- Read drink labels and look for hidden sugars. They have many names like: sucrose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, evaporated cane juice, cane sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, barley malt, honey, molasses and more.
Learn more at www.cutsugarydrinks.org.