Decoding Juice Box Labels

Jeanne Sager

Juice boxA moment of silence in honor of the inventor of the juice box. She? He? ranks right up there with the guy who created washable crayons.

The juice box has become the fail-safe method for taking their drinks on the road and not ending up with a purse full of red liquid. But finding a juice box that will balance convenience with health is the trick. The Stir asked Kate Dupont Phillips, a senior program and policy analyst at Nemours Health & Prevention Services in Newark, Del., for help reading juice box labels.

What should parents be looking for in juice? High fiber? Low sugar?

Look for 100 percent juice, which contains only juice squeezed from the fruit or vegetable and no added sugar. Don't worry about fiber or sugar in juice. Juices that are labeled "high in fiber" or "low in sugar" are likely to have added, not natural fiber, and be watered down to lower the sugar content.

What should they be avoiding?

Non-100 percent juice drinks (which have added sugar): cocktails, -ades (lemonade, limeade), fruit punch, powdered drinks. Keep in mind that unless it says "100 percent juice" on the label, it likely has added sugar.

What are the numbers to look for?

Key is "100 percent juice," which will be on the front of the bottle. Once you have that, look at the serving size listed on the bottle and how many servings the bottle contains. Most bottles contain significantly more juice than children should drink in a day, much less a sitting.

Children under 12 months should not drink any juice, children 1-7 years of age should have only 4-6oz of juice per day and children 8 and older should have only 8-12 ounces per day. These are maximums.

What about the letters?

If a drink is 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, that's not something to worry about. However, it is easy to be confused by a fruit drink package that says "100 percent vitamin C" because it is often misunderstood to mean 100 percent juice.

When it states the former it means that the beverage is not juice but a fruit drink with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) added.

Are there any words on the front of the juice box that warn us to steer clear?

"Cocktail" "-ade" ...look for 100 percent juice and don't worry about the rest.

Any other tips for the juice box for back-to-school?

Look for 100 percent juice and small sizes. Juice boxes in 4oz are ideal. Don't worry about organic.

Are you a juice box junkie?

Image via Lee Cohen/Flickr

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