The dangers that lurk inside of fruit juice

Juice is made from fruit, so it must be good for you, right? Often parents and after school programs think they’re taking good care of their kids by giving them fruit juices, but these drinks can be loaded with sugar.

What’s perceived as a “good-for-you” glass of apple juice, can have the same amount of sugar in one glass as a can of soda. So, it’s hard for parents and after school programs to know which juices are healthy for their children. Looking for the main ingredients in juices is important for after school programs to making healthier choices.

Not all juice is pure juice

  • Mixed juice blends only contain small amounts of different fruit juices, like pear or grape, and tend to have lots of added sugars.
  • Juice cocktails or juice drinks typically are not 100 percent juice. Main ingredients are usually water, small amounts of juice, and sweeteners, like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Fruit punch juices are sometimes masked as fruit “juice”, and these beverages have little nutritional value.

100% fruit juices can also be unhealthy

  • A glass of apple, grape or cranberry juice has as much sugar as a glass of soda
  • Orange, grapefruit and vegetable juices are somewhat lower in sugar
  • Actual fruit is much better for children than fruit juice due to added fiber and nutrients
  • Young children should have no more than 4-6 ounces of fruit juice per day

When we see very young children at our after school programs with tooth decay and cavities, juice and other sugary drinks can sometimes be the cause. Tooth decay starts with two main culprits: sugar and acid.

Sugar fuels the bacteria already in our mouths to create acid. The acid then eats away at the protective layer of the teeth, or tooth enamel. This is what leads to tooth decay and cavities over time.

The way juice is served to kids also contributes to the problem. Sippy cups and bottles release liquid slowly. This process allows the sugary juice to pool in the mouth giving bacteria all the time it needs to trigger tooth decay and damage to kids’ teeth. This is especially true at night. Parents should never put babies to bed with milk or juice bottles.

Less sugar, more nutrition

Eliminating sugary beverages as much as possible from your children’s diet is best for good oral health. Choose juice products that are 100 percent juice with no added sugar or other ingredients. Juices that are rich in vitamins are tomato juice, vegetable juice, grape juice, berry juice and orange juice. Serve no more than four to six ounces a day and try diluting the juice with water.

Other kid-friendly choices

Other good options are whole milk, almond milk, soy milk or rice milk if your child is allergic and plain sparkling water. For fun, create a wholesome fruit smoothie by blending strawberries with a squeeze of lemon, a little honey and enough water to make it drinkable or use any other fruit that has high water content like cantaloupe. Don’t forget to have your kids drink plenty of tap water. Tap water contains fluoride, which protects kids’ teeth against cavities.

DREAM, one of the Midwest’s well-known youth mentoring organizations, provides life-changing and life-enriching experiences to at-risk youth through mentoring and after-school programs in Omaha, Nebraska, and Springfield, Missouri. Their proven approach puts children in a comfortable setting where they’re encouraged to discuss openly, learn, and grow as individuals. Are you interested in getting involved with DREAM? Contact us today.