Juicy Little Secrets About Your Child's Favorite Drink

Juicy Little Secrets about Your Child's Favorite Drink

Your child is begging for a soft drink, but you offer him juice instead. It seems like a great compromise--juice is made from fruit, after all--but is that juice box really a healthier option?

The nutritional facts may surprise you.

Certain types of juice have more sugar per serving than soft drinks, and some "fruit juice" isn't all that fruity. So how do you know what juice to give your child? And what should you look for when choosing one?

Is juice healthful?

Juice does have nutritional benefits; it is made from fruit, after all. However, juice doesn't contain fiber as fruit does, and because it is made by pressing fruit and then removing some of the water to concentrate it, it often contains more calories than a serving of fruit. Juice provides phytonutrients and vitamin C and many are fortified to provide calcium and vitamin D as well.

However, only 100% juice contains these nutrients. Other types of juice, those labeled "juice drinks" and "juice cocktails," are much less nutritious, as they are made of mostly corn syrup and artificial flavorings. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows beverages to be labeled "juice drinks" if they contain any amount of juice, even just 1% real juice. Read the label to see whether your child's favorite is real juice or a look-alike. Any juice that lists high fructose corn syrup, sugar or another sweetener in the first few ingredients, whether it is bottled, canned, or frozen, should be a red flag that the drink is not actually 100% juice. Most juices found in convenience stores and on supermarket shelves are not actually juice, but sugar-water mixed with artificial flavorings and just 2-5% actual juice.

Reading the label is another way to determine whether a juice really contains the fruits it says it does. Many "exotic" or superfood juice blends such as blueberry, pomegranate, or acai are often diluted with apple juice or grape juice. These juices are mild in flavor and much cheaper to produce, so manufacturers often mix them in with the "fancier" juice to save money and stretch the premium product. To make sure that your pomegranate-cran-blueberry juice is actually what it claims to be, check the label for traces of apple or grape juices.

What kind should I buy? How much should I serve?

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