Q&A about fruit juice with nutritionist Fiona Hunter
In December 2014, Mumsnetters asked Fiona Hunter, a qualified independent nutritionist and member of the British Dietetic Association, for advice on the role of fruit juice in the diet and to help clear up confusion caused by some of the contradictory media headlines about juice.
Fiona has a BSc (Hons) Nutrition degree and a postgraduate diploma in Dietetics from Kings College London. She worked as a registered dietitian in the NHS for seven years and for the last 15 years has worked as an independent nutrition consultant, writer and broadcaster. She spoke about how 100% juice can help support a balanced diet, what vitamins and minerals it contains, when it is best to drink juice and how much sugar it contains.
Q. AliceinWinterWonderland: What is the benefit to children of drinking juice with meals?
A. Fiona Hunter: 100% fruit juice is an excellent source of vitamin C. For more info on vitamin C click here. Here it explains, for example, that vitamin C can help the body to absorb iron from plant food (ie non-haem iron found in fortified cereals, some beans, and spinach) when consumed together. If you want to give your children juice with meals, that's fine. It can be a good idea to dilute it and get them to drink it using a straw as this helps to reduce contact between juice and the teeth. Some people encourage their children to swill their mouth with water after eating a meal. You may also want to wait at least an hour before they brush their teeth. For more advice how to look after your teeth go to The British Dental Health Foundation's website.
Q. Dolallytats: If your child won't eat a whole fruit, is fruit juice an alternative? Which one is best?
A. Fiona Hunter: Children can be notoriously picky about food so if your child refuses to eat whole fruit then 100% pure juice is a good alternative and will count as one of the recommended five-a-day. You haven't said if your son or daughter will eat vegetables, but hopefully you can make sure they get the other four portions from whole fruit and vegetables. Most varieties of 100% juice provide nutrients. 100% orange juice and other citrus fruits like grapefruit and pink grapefruit contain the most amount of vitamin C. 100% orange juice is also a source of folate (one of the B vitamins) and potassium. For more information on these vitamins, check out the NHS Vitamins and minerals page.
Q. maisiesnan: My granddaughter is four and drinks a lot of bottled juice, would it be better for her to have fresh fruit juice?
A. Fiona Hunter: Some fruit juice drinks do contain added sugars, so it's worth checking the label on the drinks your granddaughter likes to see if it does contain added sugar. To do this you need to look at the ingredients list rather than the nutritional panel. If you see sugar or other ingredients like honey, concentrated fruit juice or agave syrup on the list it means the drink contains added sugars. 100% fruit juice doesn't contain any added sugars, only the sugars which naturally occur in the fruit from which it is made. It also provides important vitamins and minerals like vitamin C. For children of your granddaughter's age it is a good idea to dilute juice with a little water, alternatively there are products like Tropicana Kids which is already diluted (75% juice and 25% water) and useful when you are out and about. It comes with a straw too.
Q. WeWishYouAMerryRabbit78: Are smoothies a better choice for kids than juice, or is there no difference?
A. Fiona Hunter: Smoothies can also be a good choice for kids, they contain many of the same nutrients as juice and some will count as two of the recommended five-a-day. As with 100% fruit juice, I would suggest if you want to give your children smoothies you could dilute them with a little water and try to make sure they are drunk using a straw to minimise contact with the teeth.
Q. beeelaine: Is there a best time of day to drink juice? Our son is 13 now and only seems to want food and drink later, he especially likes to eat and drink before bed and I am worried that letting him have sugary things like juice at night is not good.
A. Fiona Hunter: I'm always amazed at how much teenage boys can eat, I'm sure some days it can seem like your son has hollow legs, so a snack before bed is not a bad thing, and a bowl of cereal and glass of 100% juice can be a nutritious snack. If he does drink juice in the evening, it's important to make sure he waits at least an hour after having juice before he brushes his teeth.
In answer to the first part of your question, I think the best time to drink fruit juice is with meals, particularly at breakfast if it's consumed with breakfast cereal. This is explained really well on the NHS website. The reason for this, as explained on the NHS website, is that the vitamin C from the juice will make it easier for the body to absorb iron from the cereal and we know that iron is an important nutrient and one that some people don't get enough of.
Q. KittyKat88: What is the maximum amount of fruit juice I can safely give to my children daily/weekly? At the moment, my daughters (aged two and four) love their fresh apple juice (not from concentrate) and although I try to limit it to breakfast only, they occasionally have extra with either lunch or dinner. I make sure they have good oral hygiene.
A. Fiona Hunter: All children are different so it's hard to be specific in terms of the quantity. One small glass (150ml) is one of the recommended five-a-day fruit and veg for an adult but no specific portion sizes exist for children under five. I would suggest about 150ml diluted with a little water would be a good amount for children under five.
Q. StampyShortnose: How much juice should a child be drinking as a guide? You hear that it's healthy but that it causes tooth decay. I am a bit confused about how much juice my kids should have, if any.
A. Fiona Hunter: You're not alone in your confusion. As you are no doubt aware, juice has been in the press a lot recently. I believe that in moderation juice can make a valuable contribution to a child's diet. One small glass of 100% fruit juice will count as one of the recommended five-a-day portions of fruit and/or veg and we know that many children (and adults) struggle to reach this target. Fruit juice also contains other important vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, for further information on vitamin C and children click here.
Q. slinky21: At what age can you start to introduce juice?
A. Fiona Hunter: Fruit juice can be introduced into a baby's diet after six months, but at this age you should dilute it with water to a ratio of about one part juice to 10 parts water. Giving diluted fruit juice with meals based on plant foods can be beneficial as (states the NHS) the vitamin C in the juice can help the absorption of iron from plant foods. Read more here and for more advice on weaning and what to introduce when go click here.
Q. Kitsune1972: I read recently that some juices can contain more sugar than the equivalent amount of cola. In light of this, would you say it's healthy for children to drink juice? If not, and they have a taste for it, what do you suggest they drink instead?
A. Fiona Hunter: I think articles which make comparisons such as this are misleading for a number of reasons. Fruit juice does contain sugars but these sugars are naturally occurring and only from the fruit from which the juice is made. Sugars in juice come packaged with other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. One small glass (150ml) of 100% fruit juice will count as one of the recommended five servings of fruit and veg a day and for this reason I believe focusing on one nutrient in this case, sugar, without considering what other nutrients are delivered is misleading.
Q. littleme96: Is it true that you should avoid drinking fruit juice when you are trying to lose weight due to the amount of sugar in it?
A. Fiona Hunter: If you're trying to lose weight, the most important thing for you to think about is total calories, not sugar. Maintaining a healthy body weight is dependent on energy balance. This means that if you consume more calories than your body uses then the excess energy (calories) will be stored in the body as fat. To lose weight you need to tip the scales in the other direction so you take in fewer calories than you use each day.
A small (150ml) glass of 100% fruit juice contains between 60-80 calories depending on the type you choose, so it is fine to include it as part of a calorie-controlled/balanced diet. 100% fruit juice doesn't contain any added sugars, the only sugars it contains are those which occur naturally in the fruit and there is no reason why you need to avoid it if enjoyed in moderation. When you are counting calories small changes can make a big difference. If you haven't tried it already, you might like to try Trop50 which is a blend of juice, water and a sweetener derived from the natural stevia plant. Trop50 has 50% less sugars and calories than regular juice. For more advice on losing weight I recommend you look at the British Dietetic Association website.
Q. ButterflyOfFreedom: Why is juice only classed as one of your five a day regardless of how much you drink of it?
A. Fiona Hunter: A small glass (150ml) of 100% fruit or vegetable juice can only be counted as one of your five-a-day regardless of how much you drink because juice doesn't contain as much dietary fibre as whole fruit. Another reason is because the recommendations are designed to encourage people to eat a variety of different fruit and vegetables. Different fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals, which all form part of a balanced diet, so it's important to eat a variety.
Q. HangingInAGruffaloStance: Are all pure fruit juices of a muchness nutritionally, or are there certain types that are to be recommended/avoided?
A. Fiona Hunter: Many varieties of 100% fruit juices will count as one of your five-a-day, but the other vitamins and minerals they contain differ slightly depending on the fruit variety. Orange and other citrus juices, like grapefruit are the richest in vitamin C. Orange juice and also some other juices provide folate (a B vitamin) and potassium. For more information on vitamin C, folate and potassium click here.
Q. TheSkiingGardener: Fruit juice seems to have been the latest food to be demonised in the press. How much of the current "fruit juice is bad" publicity is hype and how much is true?
A. Fiona Hunter: One of the first things I was taught when I studied for my degree in nutrition was that there was no such thing as a bad or unhealthy food - just bad/unhealthy diets. You're right fruit juice has had a lot of bad press recently, much of which I feel is undeserved. I believe focusing on one nutrient in this case, sugar, without considering what other nutrients that food or drink offers is unhelpful.
Fruit juice does contain sugars but these are naturally occurring sugars which are present in the fruit and these sugars come with other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. One small glass (150ml) of 100% fruit juice will count as one of the recommended five fruit and veg servings and for this reason it's great to include in a balanced diet.
Q. tabbaz123: Juicing has become a very popular diet and indeed lifestyle for many. Is making your own juices as a replacement to meals really a good idea?
A. Fiona Hunter: Although juices can provide several important nutrients to the diet they cannot provide all the nutrients you would normally get from a meal so I wouldn't recommend replacing meals with juices. Including juice with a meal can have some important nutritional benefits as it provides a range of micronutrients and as they explain on the NHS website any vitamin C present can help with the absorption of iron in plant foods.
Q. ByeByeButterfly: What are the best four or five fruits to blend together to provide good flavour and give a good array of important nutrients?
A. Fiona Hunter: Healthy eating guidelines recommend that we should try to eat a variety of different fruit and vegetables - the reason for this is that different fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals, so eating a variety is the best way to ensure you get a good selection. My advice would be to vary the fruits you use and if you don't do it already you could even think about adding some vegetables.
Q. Enjoyingmycoffee1981: What is the difference between freshly squeezed fruit juice and the fruit juice made from concentrate? Is it better to have shop-bought freshly squeezed fruit juice or concentrated juice?
A. Fiona Hunter: For most people it is a question of personal preference and taste. Juice from concentrate has water removed at source (ie where the fruit is harvested and processed) and then the pulp/concentrate is transported to other countries where water is added back to reconstitute the concentrate. Some people believe that freshly squeezed juice and juice which is not from concentrate has a better flavour than juice which is made from concentrate.
Q. masterofyou2: Is diluting juice a good idea? How about juices made with artificial sweetener??
A. Fiona Hunter: If I want a longer drink in the evening or when I'm out I often dilute juice with sparking water but of course you can also use tap water. By law 100% fruit juice must contain just juice, so drinks that contain artificial sweeteners must be called fruit juice drinks rather than fruit juice. If you haven't tried it already you might like to try Trop50 which is a juice drink made from Tropicana juice, combined with water and a sweetener derived from the natural stevia plant. Trop50 has 50% less sugars and calories than regular fruit juice. If you want to know more about stevia click here.
Q. marymanc: When I was a child my dad used to prepare fresh orange juice from squeezed oranges and made all of us drink a glass for the vitamin C content. Does a glass of orange or another fruit juice from the supermarket contain the same amount of vitamin C as freshly squeezed fruit?
A. Fiona Hunter: That's a difficult question to answer because it depends of the amount of vitamin C in the oranges that you use to make the juice. The amount of vitamin C in fruit depends on many factors, one of which is how long the fruit is stored. Once fruit is picked it starts to lose vitamin C so orange juice squeezed from fruit that has just been picked from a tree is likely have the most vitamin C. Sadly in this country we aren't lucky enough to be able pop out into the back garden and pick oranges straight from the tree, so we have to rely on supermarkets and green grocers to provide our oranges and the problem is there is no way of telling how long ago they were picked. When fruit is picked to be made into juice commercially, the time between picking and processing is likely to be less. For Tropicana this is within 24hours of being picked so the losses of vitamin C are minimised. Just one small glass (150ml) of 100% orange juice will provide more than half our recommended daily intake for vitamin C, it is also a source of folate (a B vitamin) and potassium, so whether you're drinking juice that has been freshly squeezed in your own kitchen or 100% juice from a carton or bottle you will be getting a good dose of vitamin C. For more information about vitamin C, folate and potassium click here.
Q. IsletsOfLangerhans: I sometimes use concentrated fruit juice in baking to replace refined sugar. Is there are any real nutritional benefit in doing so?
A. Fiona Hunter: The table sugar that you add to things like cakes and biscuits when you are baking provides what nutritionists call "empty calories". What that means is calories that do not come packaged with any additional nutrients, which is why nutritionists recommend we do what we can to cut back on this type of sugar (you will notice I said cut back not cut out). I think your idea of using concentrated fruit juice is a good compromise because you are getting the sweetness and it may be packaged with some vitamins. If you are using concentrated fruit juice it is still important to try to limit the amount you use.
Q. Should I avoid drinking milk after a meal or is this good?
A. Fiona Hunter: The British Dental Health Foundation say that eating a piece of cheese or having a glass of milk at the end of meal is a good idea because it will help to cancel out some of the acid in normally acidic foods and drinks, such as red wine, vinegar and citrus fruits. They also recommend chewing sugar free gum after eating as this encourages the production of salvia which will help to reduce the impact of any dietary acids from naturally acidic foods and beverages. For more information click here.
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Did you know that 100% pure orange juice such as Tropicana can play a role in a healthy, balanced diet for both you and your children? A 200ml glass of Tropicana:
- Is an easy and convenient way to get one of your five-a-day
- Is an excellent source of vitamin C that helps maintain a healthy immune system, helps the body to absorb iron from plant food and plays a role in the formation of collagen for healthy blood vessels, bones, cartilage, gums, and skin
- Is a source of folate which helps reduce tiredness and fatigue, plays a role in normal formation of blood and contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy
- Contains only sugars that occur naturally in the fruit from which the juice is derived
For your chance to win, simply answer the question below.
WIN! One lucky Mumsnetter will win a £150 Waitrose voucher.
Competition closing date: 12 February 2015
Last updated: about 1 year ago