Juice Boxes (or poppers) are a common addition to many Aussie kids lunchboxes. Easy to pack, store and bulk buy, but how healthy are they?
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE looked at 30 different apple and orange juice boxes sold at Australian supermarkets, comparing the nutritional information and ingredients to help parents understand what they should be looking for when buying them.
Although fruit juices appear healthy (it does have 'fruit' in the name), many brands contain a lot of sugar.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines advises to only occasionally substitute 100 per cent juice for other fruits as counting towards the recommended two serves of fruit a day. A serve of juice is 125mL (half a cup) – but many of the brands serving sizes are double this.
Out of the 30 products CHOICE looked at, only four products contained no sugar and had less than 360 kilojoules per box - which is the equivalent to a medium apple or orange.
- Golden Circle No Added Sugar Orange Juice
- Just Juice Orange Juice
- Nudie Nothing But 2 Oranges and
- Prima Apple No Added Sugar.
Golden Circle No Added Sugar Orange Juice Photo: CHOICE
What to keep in mind when buying juice boxes:
A serve of juice is defined as 125mL (or half a cup) and most single servings in juice boxes contain at least twice this amount.
Although many brands advertise 'no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives,' it doesn't mean they don't contain additives.
Many juice boxes contain natural colours and flavours, and several contain preservatives too, along with food acids/acidity regulators (usually citric acid).
Some products contain added sweeteners instead of sugar to keep the kilojoules lower.
Just Juice Orange Juice Photo: CHOICE
It's recommended the daily intake of vitamin C for children up to eight-years-old is 35mg, with the reviewed products containing between 20 and 87.5mg.
Fresh fruit is a great source of vitamin C, but during the juicing process loses some of its nutrients. However, about two thirds of the products we looked at, both juices and fruit drinks, have vitamin C added.
According to CHOICE, most Australians exceed the recommended dietary intake of vitamin C anyway, so vitamin C claims shouldn't be a huge influence in your choice.
Nudie Nothing But 2 Orange Photo: CHOICE
'Contains a serving of fruit per package' claim
Many juice boxes will claim that there's a serving of fruit per box, although dietary guidelines urge parents to keep in mind that 100 per cent juice should only be used occasionally to substitute a piece of fruit.
It's better to munch on an apple to achieve the recommended two servings a day, rather than drinking juice.
Prima Apple No Added Sugar Photo: CHOICE
Although there's no harm in a juice box in your kids lunch box every now and then, experts advise you stick to water when possible and limit the amount of sugary fruit drinks..
You should opt for small juice boxes (125mL) in addition to a bottle of water for extra hydration, or mix the serving of juice with water.
As any dietitian will tell you, water is the best everyday drink for children – and it's free!
Take a look at the full CHOICE review here