Last year, Americans spent nearly $1.5billion on children’s fruit drinks and flavored waters – and none of them are healthy, a new report says.
Researchers from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, looked at 34 of the top-selling sweetened drinks marketed to kids.
They found that none of them meet the nutritional recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Most of the sweetened drinks contained no more than five percent of juice and almost as much added sugar as children should have in a day.
With obesity rates at 18.5 percent among children and teens between ages two and 19, and continuing to rise, the team hopes that parents can become more informed about the drinks their kids are consuming to help curb the growing epidemic.
A new report from the University of Connecticut found sweetened fruit drinks (pictured) made up 62% of total children’s drink sales in 2018, but 100% juice drinks made up just 38% of sales
For the report, titled Children’s Drink FACTS 2019, researchers looked at the top-selling brands of drinks marketed primarily to children.
You shouldn’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out whether or not a product is healthy for your child
Dr Maria Romo-Palafox, study co-author and Saint Louis University assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics
This included 34 sweetened drinks – such as fruit drinks, flavored waters, and drink mixes – and 33 drinks without added sweeteners including 100 percent juice, juice-water blends and sparkling water.
The team looked at the drinks’ nutritional contents, sales, advertising spending and product packaging.
According to the report, fruit drinks and flavored waters with added sugars made up 62 percent of total children’s drink sales in 2018.
Sugar-sweetened children’s fruit drinks contained no more than five percent of juice, yet 80 percent of the packages had of fruits and vegetables.
And one-third of the sweetened drinks had 16 grams or more of sugar in one serving.
That’s the equivalent of four teaspoons, more than half of the amount of added sugars experts recommend for children in one day.
‘You shouldn’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out whether or not a product is healthy for your child,’ said co-author Dr Maria Romo-Palafox, an assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.
‘The fronts of the packages make children’s drinks look healthy, but there’s no way to know which ones have added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners reading the front.
FRUIT DRINKS THAT ARE MORE SUGAR THAN JUICE
- Apple & Eve on the Go
- Bug Juice
- Capri Sun Roarin’ Waters
- Hawaiian Punch
- Kool-Aid Jammers
- Minute Maid Lemonade
- Mott’s Juice Drink
- Sunny D
- Tum E Yummies
‘You have to read the nutrition facts panel on the back and you have to know the names of low-calorie sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium and sucralose, to realize they are in the product.’
By comparison, drinks such as 100 percent juice, made up 38 percent of children’s drink sales in 2018.
However, children between ages two and 11 saw more than twice as many TV ads for sweetened drinks as drinks without added sweeteners.
This included advertisements for drinks such as Kool Aid Jammers and Capri Sun Roarin’ Waters, both owned by Kraft Heinz.
In fact, the report found that companies spent $20.7million marketing children’s drinks with added sugars in 2018.
Most of this was to children under age 12.
‘Beverage companies have said they want to be part of the solution to childhood obesity, but they continue to market sugar-sweetened children’s drinks directly to young children on TV and through packages designed to get their attention in the store,’ said lead author Dr Jennifer Harris, the Rudd Center’s director of Marketing Initiatives.
‘Parents may be surprised to know that pediatricians, dentists, and other nutrition experts recommend against serving any of these drinks to children.’
In its report, the Rudd Center made several policy suggestions to discourage consumption of sweetened drinks.
These include taxes at the state and local level on children’s fruit drinks and the US Food and Drug Administration banning drinks to use images of fruit or vegetables on packaging for products that contain little or no juice.