The juice box has been a lunchbox staple for a long time, providing kids with the hydration and nutrition necessary to get through the school day — or so parents thought. Recent studies on the dangers of drinking too many high-sugar, high-calorie beverages have helped to steer parents away from the mighty boxes.
As kids head back to school and parents look for quick ways to pack their child a healthy lunch, it’s time to reconsider the juice box. There are more types than ever on the market today, promising everything from great flavor to great nutrition, all wrapped up in a sensible serving size. Yet sensationalist claims scream at you from the box, making it difficult to figure out which ones offer real nutrition and which don’t. Then, of course, there is the matter of taste. Just because a drink with carrots and berries is appealing to Mom or Dad, doesn’t mean a kid is going to like it.
When choosing a juice box, it’s helpful to remember a few juice guidelines, as suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Infants less than a year old should not be drinking any fruit juice, kids ages 1 to 6 years old shouldn’t exceed 6 ounces of fruit juice per day, and older children from ages 7 to 18 shouldn’t consume more than 8 or 12 ounces per day, ideally divided into two servings. Along with causing weight gain, excessive juice consumption can lead to cavities, malnutrition, and diarrhea. If you have more concerns about your child and fruit juice, it’s best to talk to a pediatrician who knows you child and their specific case.
In order to figure out the tastiest, the sweetest, and the weirdest options out there, The Daily Meal editors taste-tested 10 different brands. For this test, we looked at fruit punch varieties from major brands available across the U.S., none of which contained high-fructose corn syrup. Some drinks had sneaky portions of vegetables added in and some were diluted with water, and although the juices are high in sugar, most of the sugars are naturally occurring and provide a way to increase fruit (and possibly vegetable) intake with little effort.
The Daily Meal's Juice Box Taste Test
|Whole Foods Fruit Punch||80%|
|Back to Nature Fruit Punch||75.1%|
|Apple & Eve Very Berry||71.1%|
|Earth Wise Orchards Red||70%|
|Trader Joe's Fruit Punch||69.2%|
|Capri Sun Super V Apple||67.2%|
|V8 Fusion Fruit Punch||64.5%|
|Honest Kids Fruit Punch||63.9%|
|V8 Fusion Apple||58.2%|
|RW Knudson Sensible Sippers||56.9%|
After the taste test there were clear passing grades, and some failing grades. (After all, our taste buds have matured a bit since the days of juice boxes at lunch.) The others got lost in the middle of the pack. The editors ranked them on a scale from 60 to 100 percent (just like you’re back in school!).
Whether you’re looking for a healthy option to tuck into your kid’s lunchbox or a pre-portioned drink for yourself, here are our favorite juice boxes — pre-packaged plastic straw not included.