Best-selling ‘fruit’ drinks for kids deemed unhealthy in new study: ‘Parents tell me they’ve been tricked’

Best-selling ‘fruit’ drinks for kids deemed unhealthy in new study: ‘Parents tell me they’ve been tricked’

A new study found that many fruit drinks marketed to kids do not contain fruit at all. Several also contain artificial sweeteners. (Photo: Getty Images)

Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity analyzed 34 popular kids’ drinks that contained low-calorie sweeteners and added sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup and cane juice), as well as drinks without sweeteners, such as 100 percent juice drinks. The study revealed that, overall, 74 percent of children’s sweetened drinks contained low-calorie sweeteners, 65 percent had added sugars, and 38 percent contained both.’ data-reactid=”23″>In the study, researchers at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity analyzed 34 popular kids’ drinks that contained low-calorie sweeteners and added sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup and cane juice), as well as drinks without sweeteners, such as 100 percent juice drinks. The study revealed that, overall, 74 percent of children’s sweetened drinks contained low-calorie sweeteners, 65 percent had added sugars, and 38 percent contained both.

Jennifer Harris, PhD, lead author of the study and director of marketing initiatives at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. She notes that even though 85 percent of the drinks showed fruit on the label, only 35 percent contained any juice at all. “I don’t think parents realize that,” she adds.’ data-reactid=”25″>What’s more, although the majority of the kids’ fruit drinks had images of fruit on the label, most did not contain any fruit juice whatsoever. “Most of them didn’t have any juice,” Jennifer Harris, PhD, lead author of the study and director of marketing initiatives at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. She notes that even though 85 percent of the drinks showed fruit on the label, only 35 percent contained any juice at all. “I don’t think parents realize that,” she adds.

Harris says that there are a few “egregious” things going on when it comes to the marketing of these sweetened fruit beverages. “The packaging of the drinks seem to really be designed to make them seem like they’re healthier than they really are — pictures of fruit on the packages,” she says. “The sweetened drinks say things like, ‘Good source of vitamin C’ or ‘100 percent vitamin C.’ They say ‘less sugar than the leading juice’ or ‘less sugar than soda.’ I have parents tell me they’ve been tricked. When they bring them home and look at what’s in it, they can’t believe they bought it.”

study, “the FDA does not require manufacturers to report the actual amounts of sweeteners contained in foods and beverages.”’ data-reactid=”30″>It’s hard to know how much artificial sweetener is in these drinks because, according to one study, “the FDA does not require manufacturers to report the actual amounts of sweeteners contained in foods and beverages.”

six artificial sweeteners for use in food and deemed them “safe for consumption,” when it comes to children, “experts don’t recommend them because there’s no evidence that they’re safe or don’t have a long-term health impact,” says Harris. “So it’s risky.”’ data-reactid=”33″>Ideally, no, says Domrose. Although the FDA has approved six artificial sweeteners for use in food and deemed them “safe for consumption,” when it comes to children, “experts don’t recommend them because there’s no evidence that they’re safe or don’t have a long-term health impact,” says Harris. “So it’s risky.”

Beyond that, artificial sweeteners also make it that much harder for parents to get their kids to drink water — which Domrose says is “the best form of hydration” — and milk. Harris points out that drinks with artificial sweeteners are also “very sweet, so even though they don’t have calories, they make it really sweet and if a young child gets used to drinking something very sweet, it’s going to be very difficult to drink plain water and plain milk.”

So what can parents do to make sure they’re choosing healthy drinks for their kids? Check the label. Harris recommends looking for 100 percent juice on the front label. That said, “experts don’t recommend that children drink very much 100 percent juice,” she says. “A small amount is ok. What parents can do is just add a little bit of water to the juice to make it less sweet.”

Another option: drinks that are juice/water blends — in other words, watered-down juice — such as R.W. Knudson Family Sensible Sippers, Honest Kids, and Juicy Juice Splashers Organic.

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