While water ranks as both the most refreshing and healthy beverage for your child, it’s not always the most appealing option. As patients of our Vancouver pediatric dentists at Must Love Kids know, drinking soda presents a variety of problems for a child’s oral and overall health. In recent years, studies have linked regular soda consumption to a variety of health problems, including obesity, diabetes and dental disease.

The risks associated with drinking soda leaves many parents in search of a flavorful and refreshing beverage for their kids to select fruit based drinks as a healthier alternative to soda. But just one serving of some brands of fruit drinks – like smoothies and juice – contain an entire day’s worth of sugar for a child, reports the results of a new study.

Published in the journal BMJ Open, researchers examined the sugar content of bottled smoothies, juice drinks and 100 percent fruit juices marketed towards children. Researchers calculated the amount of “free sugar” in each beverage, which they defined as sugars added by the manufacturer – such as fructose and glucose – in addition to natural sugars like honey. They did not include sugars found naturally in vegetables and whole fruits.

During their examination, researchers found that nearly 50 percent of the beverages contained the recommended daily maximum of sugar a child should consume in one day, which in the U.K. (where the study took place) is 19 grams or roughly five teaspoons.

What’s troubling about the results of this study is that most parents don’t assume that fruit juice contains high levels of sugar. While sugar content ranged widely depending on the product, the brands tested in the study contained up to six teaspoons of sugar in a six-ounce serving, twice the daily recommended amount for a young child. Researchers say parents make the same mistake with smoothies, which many people assume are very healthy. However, the smoothies tested in this study contained up to eight teaspoons of sugar in the standard serving, which ranks as three times the daily amount for kids.

One of the biggest differences between eating whole fruits and drinking juice or a smoothie is the healthy fiber, which enables the body to absorb less sugar, is lost when the fruit is processed.

Many brands of fruit juice use artificial sweeteners that don’t contain any calories, but researchers remain skeptical about how much that really matters when it comes to beverages marketed towards kids. While replacing sugar with calorie-free alternatives may lead to better weight loss and long-term metabolic health, researchers did not believe that this a long-term solution to reducing the amount of sugar kids consume or in preventing the health problems diets high in sugar could cause.

Patients of our Vancouver pediatric dentists at Must Love Kids should consider feeding their kids more whole fruits and vegetables instead of relying on fruit juices and smoothies when snacking. Not only will more whole fruits and vegetables lower the amount of sugar kids consume daily, it will also help improve their oral health by increasing saliva flow and scrubbing clean any bacteria that lingers on the surface of their teeth.