Is Fruit Juice a Healthy Choice?

Many parents are aware that water is the best option to quench thirst in children of any age and that things like soft drinks should be given only as a special treat. But what about fruit juice?

Orange, apple or blackcurrant; they are often advertised as being a healthy drink for kids but are they really? While fruit juice may be a healthier alternative to soft drinks, there are some important issues to be aware of if giving these to your children regularly.

But Fruit isn’t bad?

Parents are constantly being encouraged to get their children to eat more fruits and vegetables, and while this is terrific advice, the way that we eat fruit and vegetables makes a big difference to how healthy or unhealthy this may be. While fruit is full of important vitamins and minerals that your child needs for healthy development, one of the most important nutrients is fibre. Fibre is extremely important for kids as it helps to regulate healthy digestion and slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream which prevents unwanted spikes in glucose.

While fruit juice may contain the vitamins and minerals found in the original fruit, the fibre content is usually stripped out and discarded during the processing phase. This means what your child is consuming is some beneficial nutrients as well as sugar without any protective fibre, leading to an immediate sugar rush.

 Are some juices better than others?

There are a range of fruit juices on the market these days so it’s important to know what to look for if you decide to give these to your children. Steer clear of any juices that have added sugars, and look out for the nutritional panel on the juice box to check how much sugar is contained within the juice, if it’s any more than around 5mg per 100ml it’s probably not the best choice for your child.

If your child really likes fruit juice and you want to find a way to incorporate this in their diet, making juice fresh at home is always a good option. This way you can control the amount they are having, and you also know that it’s only 100% fruit that they are consuming without any added sugars.

Why Smoothies may be a better choice

If you are looking for ways to get more fruits and vegetables into your children’s diet you should consider smoothies as an option as smoothies utilise the whole fruit and include all of the vitamins, minerals and fibre to help slow digestion. Smoothies can be made at home from fresh ingredients or you can buy them from most supermarket chains in the cold produce isles. Once again, it’s important to read the nutritional panel to check how much sugar is in a packaged smoothie and read all the other ingredients to make sure there aren’t lots of artificial additives.

The bottom line

  • Water is always the best choice for good hydration in our children, unless they are participating in rigorous sporting activities or they have lost fluids due to illness.
  • Fruit juice is generally a better choice than soft drink but the big lesson learnt is to be aware of all the flavours and extra additives in any drink you are giving your child.
  • You can improve your child’s fruit and vegetable by giving them whole food blended into a smoothie.