Sugar in juice, fat in milk and artificial sweeteners in sodas. 

They all make deciding what to give your children to drink a minefield.

Adding to every parent’s confusion, a new study today suggested that fruit juice may be making children fat because of the double-whammy of sugar and ‘liquid calories’.

The finding runs contrary to what many parents might have believed, especially those who assumed juice was a healthy, vitamin C-packed alternative.

MailOnline has now asked registered nutritionists their thoughts on what children should be given to drink.

MailOnline has asked registered nutritionists their thoughts on what children should be given to drink after study suggested drinking juice could lead to weight gain in children (stock image)

MailOnline has asked registered nutritionists their thoughts on what children should be given to drink after study suggested drinking juice could lead to weight gain in children (stock image) 

Rob Hobson, a registered nutritionist and adviser for Healthspan, said he wouldn’t advise parents to ditch juice entirely.

However, according to him, they should be conscious of how much their children are drinking. 

‘I see no problem in giving your child a small serving of fruit juice (150ml) daily and better to serve as part of healthy breakfast,’ he said. 

‘The same is true of smoothies but serve one or the other.’

He said while juice can add calories to a diet, it also has other benefits that sweet alternatives lack.  

‘Any drink high in sugar, even fruit juice which contains natural sugars, is likely to add extra calories to the diet which is more likely to be an issue when consumed in excess,’ Hobson said. 


The amount of sugar a person should eat in a day depends on how old they are.

Children aged four to six years old should be limited to a maximum of 19g per day.

Seven to 10-year-olds should have no more than 24g, and children aged 11 and over should have 30g or less. 

Meanwhile the NHS recommends adults have no more than 30g of free sugars a day.

Popular snacks contain a surprising amount of sugar and even a single can of Coca Cola (35g of sugar) or one Mars bar (33g) contains more than the maximum amount of sugar a child should have over a whole day.  

A bowl of Frosties contains 24g of sugar, meaning a 10-year-old who has Frosties for breakfast has probably reached their limit for the day before they even leave the house.  

Children who eat too much sugar risk damaging their teeth, putting on fat and becoming overweight, and getting type 2 diabetes which increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Source: NHS 

‘Over other sugary drinks, fruit juice contains vitamin C.’

While limiting fruit juice to one a day, Mr Hobson said parents can still dish out other healthy thirst-quenchers.

‘Throughout the day I would recommend other drinks that hydrate without the additional sugars,’ he said. 

‘You could try naturally flavoured water by adding ingredients like cucumber, pineapple cubes, strawberries and mint. 

‘A glass of milk is also very nutritious for children and can hydrate as well as contributing to their calcium intake.’

Bridget Benelam, nutrition scientist at British Nutrition Foundation, said water and milk were the best choices for drinks for children over juice.

‘Water and milk are the best choices as they don’t contain free sugars,’ she said. 

‘Fruit juices and smoothies contain some vitamins and minerals but are also high in sugar so the advice is to keep these to no more than one small glass (150ml) a day.’

She added it wasn’t only the calories that parents had to bear in mind as juice could also damage children’s oral health.   

‘The sugar and acidity of juices can harm teeth if children have them frequently so, if giving fruit juice it’s best to have it with a meal to limit any impact on dental health,’ she said.

For particularly picky children who want a juice, or for parents who want to maximize the vitamin benefits without the harms, Ms Benelam advised trying to dilute it with water to reduce sugar and acidity.

The recent study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, was based on a review of 42 other studies.

Canadian researchers looked at how body mass index (BMI changed in both children and adults who drank 100 per cent fruit juice for two weeks.

They found that each serving of juice in children seemingly resulted in a small increase in their BMI, suggesting a potential link.

However, they found no significant change in the weight of adults who drank juice in the studies.

The NHS recommends that children aged four to six should have no more than 19g of free sugars per day, while seven to 10-year-olds should limit intake to 24g.

No NHS guidelines exist for children under four-years-of-age, though the health service advises parents to avoid giving these youngsters any additional sugars. 

These limits only apply to sugar added to foods, such as flavoured yoghurts, cereal and fizzy drinks, or those found naturally in fruit juices, smoothies and honey. 

Health chiefs don’t set limits on the sugar found in fruit, vegetables and milk.

A single 150ml serving of orange or apple juice contains roughly between 12g and 15g of sugar.

With a standard juice box, a classic mainstay in many packed lunches being 200ml, it’s easy to see how a child might inadvertently consume more than recommended.

The scourge of so-called ‘hidden’ or ‘added’ sugars which are those we may not be aware are in drinks like juice, as well as products like sauces, ketchups and salad dressings have been blamed for contributing to several health issues.

Some experts consider them to be one of the key driving factors in the rise of obesity and diabetes rates in both Britian and America. 

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