12 Most Over-Sweetened Kids’ Drinks

You may be surprised by some of these sugary sips

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Marketed to kids as a fun choice, some of these drinks pack more sugar than Twinkies.

While you might be aware just how sugary sodas are bad for your — and your kids’ — health, you might not know that some fruit-flavored children’s drinks — and juices — can have just as much sugar as soda, and be nearly as nutritionally empty. Many of these syrupy beverages are no more than glorified sugar-water, but they’re pitched to well-meaning moms as healthy, fun choices for kids.

12 Most Over-Sweetened Kids’ Drinks (Slideshow)

One of our biggest surprise offenders was apple juice. This childhood classic is actually not great for children’s health, as it turns out. “Boxed apple juice contains a lot of sugar, and can be just as bad as drinking soda,” Dr. Deepa Verma tells us. “Apple juice has few natural ingredients and contains way too much sugar. It is possibly one of the worst juices to give your child and is responsible for a lot of dental decay and obesity in children.”

When considering the most over-sweetened kids’ drinks, we limited ourselves to uncarbonated beverages that are clearly marketed to children. So while kids might be drinking some of the super-sweetened versions of Arizona iced teas or guzzling down Dr. Pepper, they don’t get advertised as kid-specific products, so we eliminated them for inclusion in our list. Some of these drinks are even hawked by kids’ favorite characters like Sesame Street’s Big Bird. What could be more wholesome? For starters, the contents of the sweet treat inside. First, we adjusted all of the nutritional content to an eight-ounce model, so that we were comparing apples to, well, apple juice. Next we ranked the drinks based on sugar content, with preference for drinks containing some nutritional content to corn syrup-laden sugary treats like CapriSun.

We also asked Sarah Berneche, a final-year natural nutrition student at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition, for her opinion on the juice-box phenomenon.

“To be honest, I'm not big on juice, period,” she said. “Fructose spikes blood sugar; whole fruit is a better alternative because the fiber slows down that spike and keeps levels even. A smoothie that incorporates some fruit (particularly low sugar ones such as berries, cherries, apples, lemon juice) and some vegetables (spinach, kale, etc) is a good option. Otherwise, unsweetened coconut water is great — it’s nature's Gatorade, hydrates while supplying the body with vitamin C, and contains very few calories, about 35 per cup. A glass of coconut water usually has about eight to 12 grams of sugar per serving, as opposed to the 20 grams or more in fruit juices, which, to put it into perspective, is equivalent to a chocolate bar.”

Does that mean kids should never get to indulge in something more tasty than healthy? Of course not: special occasions call for special delights. But we’d recommend a small glass of whole milk mixed with a little cocoa powder and honey — definitely tasty, but not super decadent – over a box of reconstituted juice product mixed with liquid corn any day of the week.

 


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1 Comments

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I read your article entitled “12 Most Over-Sweetened Kids’ Drinks” and as a registered dietitian working with the Juice Products Association I would like to mention several inaccuracies. First, I’d like to stress that from 100% apple juice and other 100% juices are healthful nutrient dense beverages which provides many beneficial vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (plant compounds), particularly among children aged 2 to 18 years of age. With regard to fiber, although whole fruit contains more fiber per serving than 100% fruit juice, USDA data indicates that replacing 100% fruit juice with whole fruit increased fiber by only one-half gram (from 1.3g to 1.8g), while gaps in important nutrients we need more of, such as potassium, increased significantly across all food patterns. In fact, several studies show people who drink 100% fruit juice have higher intakes of total fiber, higher whole fresh fruit intake and better quality diets overall compared to people who do not drink 100 % fruit juice. For more information about juice please visit www.juicecentral.org

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