February 24, 2024

A glass of orange juice has long been considered part of a healthy breakfast for children, but shocking research suggests that the habit is just as damaging as drinking a daily can of soda and can lead to obesity.

Experts say many parents are still unaware of the sky-high levels of sugar found in supposedly healthy fruit-flavoured products, and even branded them ‘liquid calories’ with little-to-no health benefits.

They advise even fruit juices boasting ‘no added sugar’ should not be considered part of your child’s five-a-day.

Scientists from the University of Toronto, in Canada, published a study which found the more fruit juice kids drank, the more weight they tended to put on – linked to the drinks’ sugar content.

‘Fruit juice really should not be considered one of your five-of-your-day,’ says Professor Naveed Sattar, a nutrition expert at the University of Glasgow.

‘There is far too much sugar for it to be considered healthy.’

It’s an issue the NHS has been concerned over for years.

In 2015, the health service issued guidelines for parents which recommended they take action to drastically reduce the amount of ‘free sugars’ they feed their children.

These free sugars refer to any extra sugar that is added to food or drinks, such as in breakfast cereals and fizzy drinks, but also the sugar found in naturally sweet products such as honey and fruit juice.

The guidelines recommend children aged seven to ten should have no more than six teaspoons of sugar every day.

For children aged four to six, the limit is five teaspoons.

The NHS recommends parents who do give children fruit juice should limit them to one small 150ml glass a day, drunk with a meal to reduce the impact on their teeth

The NHS recommends parents who do give children fruit juice should limit them to one small 150ml glass a day, drunk with a meal to reduce the impact on their teeth

But juices branded as ‘healthy’  and which claim to be one of your child’s five-a-day might contain more than a whole day’s worth of sugar.

For example, a small 11 ounce bottle of orange juice contains around eight-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar – roughly the same as a 12 ounce can of Coke which contains nine-and-a-half teaspoons.

The need to tackle the amount of sugar children consume is clear.

Research suggests around a third of children are obese or overweight by the time they leave primary school.

Excess sugar can also damage their teeth.

The NHS recommends parents who do give children fruit juice should limit them to one small 150ml glass a day, drunk with a meal to reduce the impact on their teeth.

Tooth decay, which is often triggered by a sugary diet, is the most common reason for hospital admissions in children aged six to ten.

And fruit juices are not the only supposedly healthy products aimed at children that parents should avoid.

High street food chain Pret this week launched a yoghurt for children which contains more sugar than a packet of Haribo.

To help parents boost the health of their children, we’ve rounded up some of the most sugar-packed fruit products sold in the UK. Find out which are the worst offenders…

How the ‘healthy’ drinks and snacks measure up… 

Children aged seven to ten should have no more than six teaspoons (24g) of free sugars a day. Children aged four to six should have no more than five teaspoons (19g) of free sugars a day. One teaspoon of sugar = 4g.

‘INNOCENT’ JUICES THAT ARE SWEETER THAN TANGO AND 7-UP

1. Tropicana Kids Tropical fruit Juice (4 x 150ml) – £3.50

THEY SAY

Give them one of their five-a-day with NEW Tropicana Kids Tropical Juice. No added sugar – just 100% pressed fruit juice, not from concentrate.

INGREDIENTS

Apple Juice, Mandarin Juice, Pineapple Juice, Passionfruit Juice, Mango Puree, Not from concentrate

HOW MUCH SUGAR

2.5 teaspoons (10g) per 100ml

4 teaspoons (16g) per 150ml serving

VERDICT

This drink contains more than double the amount of sugar in Fanta Fruit Twist, which has one and a half teaspoons or 6.6g of sugar per 150ml.

‘When fruit is turned into juice it loses its fibre, which ensures the body digests it slowly,’ says Dr Katerina Petropoulou, a nutrition researcher at Imperial College London.

‘This means that all the sugar in the fruit is absorbed immediately and the energy boost it brings does not last long, so children will be hungry again soon after.

‘It doesn’t matter how many different types of fruit are in the drink.’

2. Innocent Kids 100% Apple Juice (4 x 150ml) – £2.80

THEY SAY

Innocent Kids Juice is made from pure pressed apples, not from concentrate. Our Kids Juice has been awarded the Good Choice badge as part of the Better Health Families campaign. No added sugar or additives.

Innocent Kids 100% Apple Juice is far more sugary per serving than Apple Tango

Innocent Kids 100% Apple Juice is far more sugary per serving than Apple Tango

INGREDIENTS

Pressed Apples, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

HOW MUCH SUGAR

2 teaspoons (8.7g) per 100ml

3 teaspoons (13g) per 150ml serving

VERDICT

This apple juice is far more sugary per serving than Apple Tango, which has just three-quarters of a teaspoon (3.15g) of sugar per 150ml.

‘Even if apple juice is made with 100 per cent apples, it can still contain a lot of free sugars, so parents shouldn’t give it to their children regularly,’ says Professor Sattar.

‘This is because a glass of apple juice can contain as much as three whole apples, with all the sugar and little of the nutrients.’

3. Cawston Press Apple & Pear Juice (3 x 200ml) – £2.25

THEY SAY

School approved. Our fruit waters are simply pressed fruit that has been shaken up with water and popped into small recyclable carton with a paper straw.

Cawston Press Apple & Pear Juice has more sugar in it than 7Up (three teaspons versus two teaspoons per 200ml)

Cawston Press Apple & Pear Juice has more sugar in it than 7Up (three teaspons versus two teaspoons per 200ml)

INGREDIENTS

Pressed Apple Juice, Still Water, Pear Puree, Vitamin C

HOW MUCH SUGAR

1.5 teaspoons (6.4g) per 100ml

3 teaspoons (12.8g) per 200ml carton

VERDICT

Cawston Press has more sugar in it than the same serving of 7Up, which contains two teaspoons (9.2g) of sugar for a 200ml serving.

‘Apples and pears are great for your health when eaten as a fruit, but when you process them into juice you lose the skin which is where much of the good fibre is found,’ says Dr Petropoulou.

‘Juice which contains water is an added benefit because it is hydrating and will by default have less sugar in it.’

4. Don Simon My First Orange Juice (4 x 125ml) – £1.25

THEY SAY

Rich in vitamin C and with the taste of fresh Spanish oranges. All natural.

INGREDIENTS

Don Simon My First Orange Juice has THREE times more sugar than Oasis Citrus Punch

Don Simon My First Orange Juice has THREE times more sugar than Oasis Citrus Punch

100% Pure orange juice, no pulp.

HOW MUCH SUGAR

2.5 teaspoons (10g) per 100ml

3 teaspoons (12.5g) per 125ml carton

VERDICT

A 125ml serving of Oasis Citrus Punch contains one teaspoon (4g) of sugar, which is a third of the amount of sugar of the same serving size of Don Simon’s My First Orange Juice.

‘There is a really big misconception over the health benefits of orange juice,’ says Prof Sattar.

‘The fact that it contains some vitamin C does not overcome the fact it contains very high levels of sugar.’

5. Pip Organic Cloudy Apple Fruit Juice (4 x 180ml) – £4

THEY SAY

100% organically grown fruit. Award winning juices. Great taste 2014. Each carton = one of your five-a-day. Great for lunch boxes. No additives or concentrates. No Added Sugar INGREDIENTS Cloudy Apple Juice.

Staggeringly, Pip Organic Cloudy Apple Fruit Juice has twice the amount of sugar than fizzy drink Dr Pepper

Staggeringly, Pip Organic Cloudy Apple Fruit Juice has twice the amount of sugar than fizzy drink Dr Pepper

HOW MUCH SUGAR

2.5 teaspoons (9.9g) per 100ml

4.5 teaspoons (17.72g) per 180ml carton

VERDICT

A 180ml can of Dr Pepper (two teaspoons or 7.74g sugar) is half as sugary as a carton of this apple juice, which contains almost ALL of a smaller child’s daily recommended intake of sugar.

‘When juiced, the sugar in fruit becomes ‘free’ from its cell, and fibre, and the nutritional benefit of the whole fruit is reduced,’ says Zoe Davies, a nutritionist at Queen Mary University of London.

‘This “free” sugar is more harmful to teeth than a whole fruit and being juice means it’s easier to consume sugar in larger amounts.’

SMOOTHIES WITH MORE SUGAR THAN A KRISPY KREME

1. Ella’s Kitchen The Pink One Smoothie Baby Food Pouch 6+ Months (5 x 90g) – £3.85

THEY SAY

Hello I’m 100% organic squished fruits packed with apples, bananas, raspberries, dragon fruit + dash of lemon juice. I’m a handy smoothie fruit snack with nothing else added, not even water.

INGREDIENTS

Ella's Kitchen The Pink One Smoothie Baby Food Pouch 6+ Months contains more sugar than Haribo Zingfest sweets

Ella’s Kitchen The Pink One Smoothie Baby Food Pouch 6+ Months contains more sugar than Haribo Zingfest sweets

Organic Apples, Organic Bananas, Organic Raspberries, Organic Rhubarb, Organic Lemon Juice Concentrate (a dash).

HOW MUCH SUGAR

3 teaspoons (11g) per 100g

2.5 teaspoons (10.4g) per 90g serving

VERDICT

This baby smoothie contains two and a half teaspoons of sugar, which is half a teaspoon more than a standard 25g serving of Haribo Zingfest sweets (two teaspoons, or 8g of sugar per 25g) – half of the recommended daily intake for a small child.

‘Babies shouldn’t consume free sugars,’ says Zoe Davies.

‘When weaning, single vegetable flavours are the best option to start with. That way we can influence their food preference, introduce them to a variety of flavours and reduce their preference for just sweet foods.’

2. Frubes Strawberry Red Berry & Peach Yogurts (9 x 37g) – £2.25

THEY SAY

A yoghurt snack full of added Calcium and Vitamin D. A delicious, fun, and mischievous snack. Free from artificial colours and artificial Sweeteners

There's the same amount of sugar in two and a half McVitty's Ginger Nut biscuits as Frubes Strawberry Red Berry & Peach Yogurts

There’s the same amount of sugar in two and a half McVitty’s Ginger Nut biscuits as Frubes Strawberry Red Berry & Peach Yogurts

INGREDIENTS 

Yogurt, Sugar, Vitamin D, Calcium Citrate, Natural Flavourings, Modified Manioc and Maize Starch, Guar Gum, Citric Acid

HOW MUCH SUGAR?

2.5 teaspoons (10.8g) per 100g

2 teaspoons (8g) per 2 tubes serving

VERDICT

There’s the same amount of sugar in two and a half McVitty’s Ginger Nut biscuits (half a teaspoon or 2.9g sugar per biscuit) – accounting for a third of an older child’s total daily sugar allowance.

‘While the product claims to use no artificial sweeteners to seem a healthy option, the second ingredient is added sugar,’ says Davies.

‘Parents would be much better off giving children unsweetened natural yoghurt with a whole fruit instead.’

3. The Collective Brekkie Blueberry and Oat Kids Yoghurt Pouch 110g – £1.20

THEY SAY

Good for growth! Source of protein, needed for normal growth and development of bone in children. Vitamin D [added] contributes to the normal function of the immune system.

The Collective Brekkie Blueberry and Oat Kids Yoghurt Pouch (pictured) has roughly the same amount of sugar per serving as a Jaffa Cake

The Collective Brekkie Blueberry and Oat Kids Yoghurt Pouch (pictured) has roughly the same amount of sugar per serving as a Jaffa Cake

INGREDIENTS

Live Yoghurt, Water, Blueberry Puree, Pear Puree, Concentrated Apple Juice, Wholegrain Gluten-Free Oat Flour, Chicory Root Fibre, Concentrated Grape Juice, Natural Flavourings, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Vitamin D, L. Bulgaricus and S. Thermophilus

HOW MUCH SUGAR

1.5 teaspoons (6.6g) per 100g

2 teaspoons (7.3g) per 110g pouch

VERDICT

This has roughly the same amount of sugar per serving as a Jaffa Cake (one a half teaspoons or 6.1g of sugar), although it’s likely to be far more filling due to the protein in the yoghurt and oat flour. Still almost half of a younger child’s total daily intake.

‘It’s a benefit if these products contain nutrients like vitamin D and protein but ultimately they still contain far too much sugar for children,’ says Dr Petropoulou.

4. Innocent Kids Strawberries, Raspberries & Apples Smoothies (2 x 150ml) – £2

THEY SAY

A healthy and tasty drink for our littlest drinkers, made from a blend of whole crushed fruit and pure fruit juices, with no added sugar. The perfect portion size for kids lunch boxes.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 of a Pressed Apple, 1/3 of a Squeezed Orange, 1/3 of a Mashed Banana, 3 Pressed Grapes, 3/4 of a Crushed Strawberry, 1 Crushed Blackberry, A Crushed Raspberry.

Despite smoothies such as Innocent Kids Strawberries, Raspberries & Apples (pictured) containing a little extra fibre than fruit juices, they still contain far too much sugar

Despite smoothies such as Innocent Kids Strawberries, Raspberries & Apples (pictured) containing a little extra fibre than fruit juices, they still contain far too much sugar

HOW MUCH SUGAR

2.5 teaspoons (10g) per 100g

3.5 teaspoons (15g) per 150g carton

VERDICT

A Krispy Kreme Original Glazed doughnut contains three teaspoons (12g) of sugar – that’s half a teaspoon LESS than in a carton of this Innocent kids drink.

‘Smoothies may have a bit of extra fibre compared to juice because they are not as finely processed, but the processing still means it becomes the type of sugar we want to reduce,’ says Davies. 

5. Happy Monkey Strawberry & Banana Smoothie (4 x 180ml) – £1.75

THEY SAY

Made for kids. 100% fruit. Great for lunch boxes. Free from additives, sweeteners. No added sugar.

INGREDIENTS

Apple Juice from Concentrate, Banana Puree, Crushed Strawberries, Crushed Raspberries, Natural Flavour

Happy Monkey Strawberry & Banana Smoothies are more sugary than KitKat

Happy Monkey Strawberry & Banana Smoothies are more sugary than KitKat

HOW MUCH SUGAR

3 teaspoons (12.7g) per 100ml

5.5 teaspoons (22.86g) per 180ml serving

VERDICT

This contains more than twice the amount of sugar found in a two-finger KitKat bar (two and a half teaspoons or 10.2g sugar), and this is more than the daily recommended sugar intake for a smaller child in just one drink.

‘Strawberries and bananas are both nutritious fruits but they’re also high in sugar,’ says Prof Sattar.

‘Normally, you would only eat them in small portions, but when they come in smoothie form, you get all the sugar of several pieces of fruit without any of the fibre.’

NATURAL FRUIT SNACKS? YOU MIGHT AS WELL HAVE A PERCY PIG

1. Fruit Bowl Raspberry Yogurt Flakes (5 x 18g) – £2.25

THEY SAY

We squish fruit with a little fruit juice then coat them in delicious creamy yogurt. Real fruit in tasty yogurt, natural colours & flavours, yummy treat, perfect for little lunch boxes.

INGREDIENTS

Percy Pig Fruit Gums are less sugary than Fruit Bowl Raspberry Yogurt Flakes (pictured)

Percy Pig Fruit Gums are less sugary than Fruit Bowl Raspberry Yogurt Flakes (pictured)

Yogurt Flavoured Coating: Sugar, Palm Fat, Whey Powder, Rice Flour, Yogurt Powder, Sunflower Lecithins, Shellac, Gum Arabic. Fruit Flakes: Concentrated Apple Puree, Fructose-Glucose Syrup, Raspberry Puree, Sugar, Gluten Free Wheat Fibre, Palm Fat, Pectin, Concentrated Elderberry Juice, Malic Acid, Citric Acid, Natural Flavouring.

HOW MUCH SUGAR

15.5 teaspoons (62g) per 100g

3 teaspoons (11.2g) per 18g packet

VERDICT

By weight, Percy Pig Fruit Gums are less sugary (59.5g of sugar per 100g). One serving of Yoghurt Flakes contains half an older child’s recommended daily intake of sugar.

‘There’s no reason to give kids snacks which combine fruit with sugar and additives,’ says Dr Petropoulou.

‘It’s much better to teach kids from an early age to eat fruit and vegetables on their own so they learn to live without sugar.’

2. Ella’s Kitchen Squishy Snack Pear + Cucumber (4 x 100g) – £3.85

THEY SAY

Who am I for? I am the perfect snack for little kids to enjoy, that is just right for their tummies. Pop me snuggly in a lunch box or take me on a picnic! I’m organic. 1 of 5 a day. No added sugar.

Ella's Kitchen Squishy Snack Pear + Cucumber have roughly the same amount of sugar as a 25g serving of Haribo Star Mix

Ella’s Kitchen Squishy Snack Pear + Cucumber have roughly the same amount of sugar as a 25g serving of Haribo Star Mix

INGREDIENTS

Organic Pears, Organic Apples, Organic Bananas, Organic Cucumber Juice, Organic Lemon Juice Concentrate (a dash).

HOW MUCH SUGAR

Three teaspoons (11.2g) per 100g serving

VERDICT

You would find roughly the same amount of sugar in a 25g serving of Haribo Star Mix (three teaspoons or 11.75g of sugar). More than half of a younger child’s daily sugar limit.

‘Product names can be misleading, this fruit and vegetable sounding name hides the fact the majority of the ingredients are fruit. This is still processed fruit,’ says Davies 

3. Kellogg’s Fruit Winders Strawberry Snack (5 x 17g) – £1.50

THEY SAY 

A delicious strawberry fruit snack roll made with no artificial colours and flavours. Kellogg’s Fruit Winders Strawberry snack rolls are naturally fruity and suitable for vegans

Kellogg's Fruit Winders Strawberry Snack contain a whopping 9 teaspoons of sugar per 100g

Kellogg’s Fruit Winders Strawberry Snack contain a whopping 9 teaspoons of sugar per 100g

INGREDIENTS 

Pear, Glucose Syrup, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Palm Oil, Pectin, Mono and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Malic Acid, Natural Flavouring, Elderberry Concentrate, Ascorbic Acid

HOW MUCH SUGAR

9 teaspoons (37g) per 100g

1.5 teaspoons (6.3g) per 17g winder

VERDICT

Rowntree’s Berry Hearts Sweets contain roughly the same amount of sugar (nine teaspoons or 35.6g sugar per 100g).

‘If parents don’t recognise the ingredients on the packet, then it will be hard for them to make informed decisions,’ says Dr Petropoulou.

‘There’s no need for children to consume foods with additives and sweeteners, when they could be eating natural fruit.’

4. BEAR Fruit Yoyos Strawberry Multipack (5 x 20g) – £2.85

THEY SAY

Gently baked for natural goodness & real flavour and a real fun BEAR card to keep, trade & collect. One of your five a day! Real Fruit, Real Flavour, Real Fun! No added sugar.

INGREDIENTS

Apples, Pears, Strawberries, Black Carrot Extract HOW MUCH SUGAR

BEAR Fruit Yoyos Strawberry snacks contain more sugar than a standard bowl of Coco Pops

BEAR Fruit Yoyos Strawberry snacks contain more sugar than a standard bowl of Coco Pops

10 teaspoons (42g) per 100g

2 teaspoons (8.4g) per 20g yoyo

VERDICT

A bowl of Kellog’s Coco Pops has less sugar (one and a half teaspoons or 5.1g of sugar) than one of these seemingly healthy fruit yoyos. This is a quarter of an older child’s intake.

‘Giving children fruit-flavoured snacks is a better choice than giving them a Mars bar, but it’s definitely worse than giving them an orange or an apple,’ says Prof Sattar.

‘These products have all the fibre and water removed, and the fruit is condensed to the point where it’s just sugar.’

5. Sunny Raisins Kids Snack (14 x 14g) – £2.40

Sunny Raisins Kids Snack may be a good option. 'While they do have a lot of sugar, raisins have a lot of fibre in them still, so in moderation, they are great for children and will give them a lot of energy,' says Dr Petropoulou.

Sunny Raisins Kids Snack may be a good option. ‘While they do have a lot of sugar, raisins have a lot of fibre in them still, so in moderation, they are great for children and will give them a lot of energy,’ says Dr Petropoulou.

THEY SAY

Sunny is a natural tasty wholesome fruit snacks parents trust, and kids love. Sunny Raisins snacks count towards your child’s 5-a-day and are perfect for enjoying as part of a lunchbox, on the go or at meal times.

INGREDIENTS

Raisins, Sunflower Oil

HOW MUCH SUGAR

16.5 teaspoons (66.5) per 100g

2 teaspoons (9.3g) per 14g packet

VERDICT

‘While they do have a lot of sugar, raisins have a lot of fibre in them still, so in moderation, they are great for children and will give them a lot of energy,’ says Dr Petropoulou.

FORGET THE HEALTH CLAIMS, HONEY IS JUST LIQUID SUGAR

1. Rowse Runny Honey Squeezy – £3.15 for 340g

Despite honey being more naturally derived, 'sugar is sugar,' says Prof Sattar

Despite syrup being more naturally derived, 'sugar is sugar,' says Prof Sattar

‘Sugar is sugar, no matter what form it comes in,’ says Professor Sattar. Despite products like honey and syrup being more naturally derived, they can still pose risk to children’s health

THEY SAY

Organic honey that is perfect for every meal from breakfast to baking. No added ingredients. Suitable for all ages over 12 months.

INGREDIENTS

Honey

HOW MUCH SUGAR

20 teaspoons (80g) per 100g honey

VERDICT

‘Sugar is sugar, no matter what form it comes in,’ says Prof Sattar.

‘It’s a myth that using honey is any better than using sugar.’

2. Buckwad Organic Maple Syrup – £6 for 350g

THEY SAY

Natural plant-based sweetener. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

INGREDIENTS

Maple syrup

HOW MUCH SUGAR

20 teaspoons (80g) per 100g syrup

VERDICT

‘Syrup is still the type of sugar we want to reduce in our diets. The “pure” or “plant-based” claims can mislead consumers into thinking it’s better than table sugar,’ says Davies 

3. Groovy Food Agave Light and Mild – £2.70 for 250ml

Agave is natural but contains a negligible amount of nutrients and is 'exactly the same as regular sugar,' says Zoe Davies

Agave is natural but contains a negligible amount of nutrients and is ‘exactly the same as regular sugar,’ says Zoe Davies

THEY SAY

A ‘groovy’ alternative to refined brown sugar and artificial sweeteners.

INGREDIENTS

Agave Nectar

HOW MUCH SUGAR

16.5 teaspoons (66g) per 100g syrup

VERDICT

‘Similar to maple syrup, agave still contains the type of sugar we want to reduce,’ says Zoe Davies.’

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