43 answers

Sugar Free Juice for kids....does It Exist?

Hi moms, I have been becoming more aware of how much sugar I feed my little boy. I do pretty well with meals and snacks as far as only feeding him low sugar foods. The problem I have been struggling with is juice. He loves his juice! He is NOT a fan of water (I have tried and tried). Juicy juice has 20-30 grams of sugar per serving! I have read the labels on the backs of every single juice bottle in the grocery store aisle, and that seems to be the norm. Kool-Aid only has 15 grams per serving, and Gatorade only has 5! So would I be better off to give him Kool-Aid or Gatorade? I do mix the juice with water (half and half), but I would like to find something perhaps sugar free if it exists. Anyone have any advice for me? Thanks.

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you to all the great responses! I tried the ice cold water with lemon slices in it and he actually drank some! I plan to throw all the juice out and go with just water or milk. He eats plenty of fruit so you guys are right, the juice is not needed! It will be a rough few days but we can do it. Thanks again!

Featured Answers

If he truly has a problem with water, try keeping a pitcher of water in the fridge with lemon slices in it. It will infuse the water with a little flavor.

1 mom found this helpful

Stay away from the sugar free, because it will be WAY more processed and have the fake sugar in it, which many kids are sensitive too; with headaches or stomach aches.

Try the water, and load it up with ice (don't know a kid who can resist the ice). As it melts have him drink. Also, make it an event, starting Monday, no more juice in the house, then stick to it. We only serve cranberry juice (rarely) and OJ, because there is some health benefit to both those, but my daughter loves water, and has since she was little. Lots of juice (apple juice, sunny d, fruit punch) is really just empty calories.

Do you best mom, even if you just reduce the juice intake, you are doing great! :)

1 mom found this helpful

hi -
i would not go the Kool-Aide or Gatorade route for a child. There is still too much sugar and corn syrup, etc. If you do "sugar free" it is filled with sugar substitute, which is also not good. I would stay with the all fruit juices and water them down. A good choice is V8 Fusion LIGHT. This is the only good for you juice that I have found out there -real juice-less real sugar (from fruit). I think it is already a bit watered down.
Good luck! And keep trying water. My daughter loves it ice cold!!

More Answers

My kids favorite was "bubble water". It's basically just club soda...water with bubbles. It has no calories, no sugar and very low sodium. (That's what they thought soda was). They liked it plain, or you can squeeze some fresh lime, lemon, or orange into it, or mix it with a little bit of cranberry juice or orange juice.
You can get 2-litre bottles of it at Winco for like 80 cents.
I'm always surprised at how many kids have never tried it, but that's what we have at my house instead of soda. They all like it.

2 moms found this helpful

All fruit has sugar. Natural sugar. If you give your children 100 percent juice, it will still have sugar. But. It will also have the other nutrients that you want them to have. Believe me. I have had this argument with my MIL. Not all sugar is bad. It depends on the source.

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Gatorade is basically flavored salt water. Koolaid has the most miniscule amount of vitamin C in it so they can say it's added. If you are really going to drop fruit juice be sure and add some vitamins to replace the nutreints the kids won't be getting.

Everyone of these links below are professional people who say 100% fruit juice is healthy. Fruit juice (100%) is a serving of fruit. It has nutrients and vitamins essential to healthy lifestyles. Please note the amounts should be age appropriate.

Mayo clinic says:

Dr. Sears says:

US Government Food Pyramid:

A food and nutrition Institute:




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Juicy Juice and others have no ADDED sugars, but as others have said; Fructose is naturally found in all fruits, and some veggies. Most juices have ADDED sugars (welches/etc.), and things like Gatorade have added sugars and added salts.

For truly sugar free you're looking at water. Because even blood and milk and potatoes have sugars in them. There are a gazillion different TYPES of sugars. Essentially anything that ends in an "ose". Sucrose, Galactose, Lactose, Fructose, etc. and we DO need those sugars in order to live and be healthy.

Usually when you hear people say "sugar-free" or "removing sugar from their diets"... they're not being accurate. They're removing "sucrose" from their diets.

And don't fork over cash for ANYTHING that has "evaporated cane juice" in it. Everyday sugar (sucrose) comes from the sugar-cane plant. Evaporated cane juice is just another way to say sugar/sucrose.

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I didn't read all the answers. SOrry if this is a repeat.

Just read the ingredients. As I did see others say, it's natural sugars that the fruit makes. SO I say read the ingredients because you should see if it has Added sugars. If the ingredients say "Organic Grape Juice" then that means it's just squashed grapes. :)

But Koolaid is AWFUL, no nutritional value whatsoever. Gatorade is full of chemicals, lots of sodium, not what any kid needs. Not what people need, really, unless they're maraton runners or something.

You're a great mom to watch out for too much sugar. Stick with it. Reading ingredients is more important than reading the nutritional value charts, I think.

1 mom found this helpful

It is much more important for things to be natural than for things to be sugar free. Kool Aid and gatorade are loaded with artificial colors and chemicals which are VERY BAD for kids. Many sugar free products have harmful artificial sweeteners (some are neurotoxins) and sugar would be the healthier choice. Natural fruit juice is real natural sugar from fruit.

Yes, it is excessive, because one glass of juice is like 10 pieces of fruit with none of the fiber you get by eating the fruit. Watering it down is your best option, and it gives him lots of water.

I put 1/4 or 1/8 juice per full glass of water, and I don't sweat it, because my kids don't eat any sugar in food except for the occasional bite of birthday cake or lollipop once in a while if someone else gives it to them. No sugary cereals or anything. Maybe a square of dark chocolate once a week or so. I do give the occasional naturally sweetened breakfast bar if we're in a hurry.

Footnote on juicy juice: We've been drinking natural and organic juices for many many years, and when I tasted "juicy juice" for my kids, I was blown away by how much sweeter it is. It tastes like artificial fruit drink with sugar added. And why is it clear? I'm not sure I buy their claims that it's just natural juice. Though I have no proof. I do give my daughter a box of it in her daycare lunch, but just water the rest of the day on those days. At home we use normal natural juice watered way down.

Just make sure he's not eating sugar in his food AND drinking tons of juice. And continue to get him used to water-or at least cut the juice from 1/2 to 1/8 per glass-he won't notice.

1 mom found this helpful

The only sugar-free juice I know of is the kind with artificial sweeteners (i.e. aspartame). Those are much worse than sugar. Plus, juices with artificial sweeteners have other bad things like artificial colors or high fructose corn syrup (which is sugar with a different and worse name). Juice isn't necessary in a little person's life when there are fruits with enough sugar to sustain.

Instead of juice, perhaps you could cut up fresh fruit and put it in the blender with some ice and honey. The honey has a lower glycemic index than granulated sugar. We use frozen fruit, plain yogurt and honey all the time for smoothies... and we add other good stuff like ground flax seed and vegetables.

When we buy juice, we usually get Juicy Juice Harvest Surprise or orange juice. At least with those there are some health benefits to drinking it.

The best thing to do is stop buying juice so there will be no argument with your little guy. You will find that when he's thirsty, he'll drink water or milk. Start putting those in front of him at meals, and he'll drink it. Good luck with this... I imagine that juice can be a hard habit to break!

1 mom found this helpful

well, fruits have natural sugar, so it's doubtful you're going to find sugar free.

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Fruit naturally has sugar in it, so the lowest you're going to find is the fruit juice with no sugar added, meaning that the only sugar in the juice is what is naturally found in the fruit. Regardless of the sugar, fruit juice is still much better than Kool-Aid or Gatorade because there is more nutrition found in fruit juice. 100% real fruit juice counts as daily fruit intake, and there are vitamins in the juice that will not be in Gatorade and especially not Kool-Aid. At least Gatorade helps with electrolytes, but Kool-Aid has no benefits that I am aware of.

1 mom found this helpful

How old is your child?
A baby for example does not need juice. For our own kids we didn't give them any juice until way after 2 years old....
my kids are now 7 and 3.5 years old... we give them juice, sometimes, and we just cut it with 50% water. We buy natural juices... meaning, just fresh squeezed. But fruit by nature has sugars in it, even fresh squeezed.
So you cannot get away from sugar in even whole juices.
And I would stay away from artificial sweeteners because it is chemicals.

There are different kinds of glucose/sugars.

And you don't have to buy sugary juices... just buy natural juices without anything added, or squeeze your own.
You control what you buy and bring into the house.
Of course if we are at a party and there is juice, my kids are allowed to drink it, in moderation. And if we are out, I tell the food server to cut my kids juice with 50% water, and they do it and they understand because LOTS of parents request that, too.

I just explain to my kids that too much "sugar"/juice is not good. They understand. And certainly they do NOT drink ANY soft drinks.

And "flavored" bubble waters (the fruit tasting kind)... has citric acid in it many times... and this causes cavities. So, you have to make sure to clean their teeth afterwards, or after any juices.

all the best,

1 mom found this helpful

If he truly has a problem with water, try keeping a pitcher of water in the fridge with lemon slices in it. It will infuse the water with a little flavor.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't know how old your little boy is, but my kids drink a ton of water mainly because I placed a stack of cups right next to the dispenser on the refrigerator and that is the only drink that they are able to get for themselves. They liked the independence of grabbing a cup and filling it at the dispenser themselves so now that's pretty much all they drink. My husband took the kids to a baseball game last night and it was $1 Coke night. For a treat, my husband offered to let them share a Coke and guess what....they both wanted water instead so my husband had to pay $4 for a bottle of water. No complaints from me, but he couldn't believe it!!

If your son is old enough find a way to make water easily accessible to him so he can help himself, he might enjoy being able to just get it himself. Also as others have said, try letting him place different fruits in the water for a little flavor (lemon, lime, strawberry) sometimes just the novelty of having a little lemon wedge floating in the water makes it fun to drink. Maybe even buy him a special sports water bottle just for him to keep his water in. Keep it in the refrigerator where he can reach it whenever he wants it but the special cup is only for water!

Good luck,

1 mom found this helpful

Stay away from the sugar free, because it will be WAY more processed and have the fake sugar in it, which many kids are sensitive too; with headaches or stomach aches.

Try the water, and load it up with ice (don't know a kid who can resist the ice). As it melts have him drink. Also, make it an event, starting Monday, no more juice in the house, then stick to it. We only serve cranberry juice (rarely) and OJ, because there is some health benefit to both those, but my daughter loves water, and has since she was little. Lots of juice (apple juice, sunny d, fruit punch) is really just empty calories.

Do you best mom, even if you just reduce the juice intake, you are doing great! :)

1 mom found this helpful

Any juice is going to have sugar in it, it is naturally occurring in any fruit. What you don't want is the added sugar, especially the artificial sweeteners. So there are many juices that don't add sugar just read the ingredient label. But you really won't find a juice that doesn't have sugar. The ones with artificial sweeteners may remove some of those natural sweeteners, but they are not good to ingest.

Trader Joes has reduced calorie juice boxes. Although I personally would not try to accomodate his juice habit. I would guess that it is not that he doesn't like water, it is that he likes juice that much more. For awhile, my kids were always demanding juice at every meal, so I just stopped buying it. After a few days of whining, they accepted it. Now I can buy juice and I only offer it every now and then. They don't even ask for it. I offer water at most meals unless they request milk. My kids eat enough other foods like brocoli and yogurt for their vitamin D.

Honestly, after a horrifying trip to the dentist, I would say cut the juice anyways, give him one small glass with meals. Gatorade has other stuff your kid definitely does not need. We buy bottled water - a little spendy on our small budget, but a big Culligan bottle - or you can get 5 gallon refills at the grocery store - keeps us going and our boys love to drink water. If he wants more juice, try offering him the whole fruit so he gets the fiber too. Basically, if it's not in your house, it's a lot easier to skip.

I remember a supervisor I had at a job. He went out 3 times for kidney stones in 2 months. When he left we cleared off all the pop and sports drinks from his desk. He said he couldn't stand to drink plain water. Don't set your kid up for these kind of issues. It really was not fun for him.

i woudl suggest diluting his juices 50/50 wiht water. that is what my sister has done and also my parents (their grandparents). it is a start, but the kids really need to get used to drinking more water than sugary drinks. and no, Gatorade or Kool-Aid is not better in any way shape or form. they don't even have any natural ingredients in them.
hope that helps!

Natural juice will have natural sugar. Some juices like kool-aid will have added sugars as well, and is really unhealthy. Many health food and organic brands are a little healthier. My pediatrician pretty much told me to stay away from juices at all costs.

We actually only give our kids juice once every few weeks as a treat, or sometimes orange juice (I think it's called Simply Orange) for breakfast, or if they get it at a birthday party or something, that's fine.

When we do give juice, we dilute half of it with water and an ice cube.

Also, if you don't have any juice/sodas in the house, he will eventually drink water out of thirst and get used to it. Maybe the water you have has a strong mineral taste? You can try a purifier and put ice in it. My kids will mostly drink water if it's ice cold.

Also, if he's out at the park and really thirsty and the only thing available is fountain water, he would probably need to be able to drink it. Oh, and drinking water saves lots of money!

Have you tried Motts for Tots? This is a good lower-sugar option. I also buy flavored waters for my son on occasion like the Capri Sun ones. They have 100% Vitamin C but very little sugar and low on calories.

I would still allow him some juicy juice - it does have alot of nutrition in it because it is 100% juice, but fruits do tend to carry alot of sugar.Try Sugar Free Kool Aid - and my daughter who does not like water likes the flavored water - they have off brand names in this also. I think Propel is low in sugar also - and is usually found by the water in the store.

I like Motts for Tots and Honest Kids

There are a lot of juices that are low in sugar and also you can do no sugar added pancake syrup. Tastes great. My family does no/low salt and sugar meals. It makes things more difficult, but it is better in the long run.

I give my daughter the apples & eve fruitables. It has 1/3 less sugar and a combined serving of fruit and veggies in each serving. I even drink it! Please don't give your boy juice made with aspartame or nutrasweet or any artificial sweetener.

Hi, I don't buy any type of juice for my home at all. I read somewhere awhile back that the juice from fruit is actually the worst part of the fruit...its designed to get you to eat the fruit. For snacks and dessert, my daughter gets fresh fruit. She is only offered water or milk to drink.

Carrot juice has only 2 grams of sugar per 8 oz. serving. You could add that and some fruit juice to water for a healthy, low sugar drink.

We only drink juice here as a special treat, but I did see at Trader Joe's recently that they have 100% cranberry juice. It has 10 grams of sugar per 8 ounces. I would imagine that it is pretty tart (most cranberry juice is only 27% cranberry juice with a lot of sugar). I would try that, mixed 50/50 with some seltzer.

Come to that, flavored seltzers might be another option. I'd chose naturally flavored seltzers. And another thing to think about is that most of the normal "juice" fruits (grapes, apples, pears, peaches, strawberry etc.) are on the "dirty dozen" of produce that has the most pesticides in them. I'd definitely be feeding organic for any of those.

Good for you for cutting back on sugar! It's hard-- especially after Passover/Easter!

I didn't read all of your answers (you got so many!) so I apologize if someone already gave you this idea. But I feel that as long as you are giving your child real juice from actual fruit that there's nothing wrong with that! I bought a juicer. I take fresh fruit and juice it fresh, add nothing to it. Pour the juice into an ice cube tray and let it freeze. Then serve it in a glass with about 1/2 water and use 2-3 real fruit juice cubes in the cup. Or partially thaw a few cubes for him and voila, you have "ice cream" that you can feel great about serving him. My son actually loves sparkling water, so I put his juice cubes into sparkling water - I tell you, it's pretty darn good - we all drink it!

Just stay away from the store-bought garbage that has added sugars and fillers. Spring and summer is the perfect time to get juicing with all of the yummy fruit about to bloom!! Happy Summer!

My daughter is also a huge juice lover. She used to drink juice every time she was thirsty, with every meal and every time she needed comfort! Well, after her four year old appointment and learning she has gained way to much weight in the past year, we are forced to limit her apple juice. We have explained that she can have one glass of juice per day, two glasses of milk and the rest must be water. The first three days were rough, now she is just accepting that water will be her "I am thirsty:" drink!

Hi O.,
My daughter doesn't like water either so I by her flavored water. I put mostly regurlar water in it and a little of the flavored water. This way it still has a fruity taste so which makes her happy. Good luck.

yeah, you can't rid of the natural sugars. best bet would be "no sugar added" juice...which there are a few (i think motts for tots is like that) but the natural sugars are good for him. if not, i'd probably go with kool-aid since it atleast has vitamin c.

I certainly wouldn't advise using sugar free juices in kids because they replace the natural fructose (fruit sugars) with sugar substitutes - which are mostly chemical derived.

Juices are high in sugars/carbs, but depending on the kind of juice, I'd advice it on occasion because there may be really good benefits as well such as the vitamins.

So, I'd go with a 100% juice variety such as Simply Orange, Simply Grapefruit, Simple Lemon, etc. Then, cut them down at least 1/2 and 1/2 with water.

That's how we do it in our house at least.

I don't have anything against sugar substitutes personally (have Truvia in my coffee right now), but as a recent cancer survivor (and long-time employee in the world of Diabetes), I'd just prefer not subject my kids to it currently if their weight/health is not an issue.

Another delicious water drink is iced cucumber water! Wash and thinly slice a cucumber and place a few sliced in your glass ife ice water. Or make a pitcher of it. It is delicious and very refreshing!

Why not get him natural fruit juice from a store like Fresh & Easy, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe's.

Gatorade is a bit high in sodium, unless he is running hard in the heat, the electrolytes will do him good.

Not all sugars are bad.. sugars from natural source is required.. choose 100% juice product with no artificital sugars added.. limit the daily consumption as recommended for the age..

That's one of the reasons my kids only drink calcium enriched orange juice. All the other ones are useless in my opinion. If they want the benefits of the fruit, they just eat the fruit (that way, they get the nutrients as well as the fiber). In our house, I keep milk, goat milk, orange juice and water, besides mom and dad's tea, coffee, and wine, of course. Sometimes Vitamin Water for our son who refuses to drink water. I'd rather he drank Vit Water than soda or some other junky drink. But straight juice like apple or grape, in my opinion is just only slightly better than a soda in terms of sugar content (what can you do, fruit has fructose, so even 100% fruit juice has lots of sugar). And the "sugar-added" or "juice drink" stuff is just as bad as a soda, only worse because they're trying to disguise themselves as "healthy". Right now, my kids have pretty much been trained to choose water as their drink of choice, but I do know parents whose kids won't touch the stuff, and they're having the same struggles as you. Good luck, it's hard keeping our kids eating and drinking healthy with so many sugary temptations around, isn't it?

Water down any juice and if a juice box is the issue, get the low sugar (uses only the sugar from the fruit itself) from Trader Joe's. They are a little pricey ($3+ for 8 boxes), but I save them for "treats" when she gets a packed lunch. Otherwise, we never introduced juice as a regular thing, so she is a water/milk drinker. Maybe try introducing juicier fruits as a snack to give him liquids? Like watermelon, grapes? Seems it is harder to break a habit, so good luck!

Hi O. - nope - no such thing as sugar-free juice. Juice comes from fruit which is loaded with natural sugars. I dont like to give a lot of kool-aid, gatorade etc. because it's full of sugar-substitutes and artificial colorings. I would rather he have the sugar.

We dilute our kids juices - usually about 60/40. That also means that we avoid juice boxes/bags, etc. Dont waste money on the "toddler" juice. All they did is add more water but you pay the same for real juice. My kids will drink water if it is really cold or has ice cubes in it. Try storing in fridge if you dont have dispenser. If you keep some water out for them to drink throughout the day and only offer juice at meals - they will usually go for the water if they are thirsty.

Have you looked at juices labeled 100% juice? It seems to me that's the best choice. There are a number of them available, both at the supermarkets and at the health food stores. There is also frozen juice that you could use by adding water to them as directed.
As far as Gatorade or Kool-aid, these drinks don't take the place of juice. Juice contains nutrients, but Gatorade and Kool-aid do not.
Frankly, I would stay away from sugar-free. Why give your child chemicals instead of real sugar? He is exposed to enough questionable chemicals without drinking them in juice!
As for water, perhaps he doesn't like the taste of tap water. Find a good water filter and give him filtered water which is cool. He may like it.
Good luck!
E. B

i have not read any of the other posts but i use splenda to make kool aid and i only use 1/2 a cup. we are not big sweet drinkers so this is the perfect alternative when want a sweet drink.

The sugar is the naturally occuring sugar found in fruit. If you find sugar free juice it has been so refined and processed that it is terrible for you, then it will have fake stuff added which is even worse. You can't take the sugar out of an apple. At least Juicy Juice does not have high fructose corn syrup added.

What about a compromise? Is he old enough to understand that? Try one glass of juice a day, diluted with water. And then he can have smoothies. They will also have sugar in them, but they will be whole fruits that have all the fiber and good stuff. If you have a blender you can make easy fruit smoothies, add milk or yogurt for calcium if you want, add things like wheat germ or flax seed, and you can even slip some veggies in there. After his one juice and smoothies, he gets water. Kids think smoothies are milk shakes. That was one of the few things I could stomach when I was first pregnant, and they are really pretty easy to do. I used frozen fruit mostly, which is even easier because you aren't trying to blend up ice to make them frozen. I never even had to sweeten them, but if you do need to, use honey or oj. I have a magic bullet and they make it really really easy to make them.

Sugar is in all kinds of stuff, but I don't worry about natural sugars. I try to limit the amount of fruit my kid gets right before bedtime, but some days he loads up on so much fruit I have had a friend ask me how I could possibly give him so much sugar. I just laughed! I'm not going to cut out fruit because it has sugar in it, that is just silly. But juice isn't near as healthy as real fruit, so cutting down is not a bad idea. Maybe the smoothies would work.

Oh, and I have seen juices marketed as containing "half the sugar and calories". They are just juice diluted with water. You pay extra to get half the juice and you can just dilute it yourself. Don't bother with those, either.

hi -
i would not go the Kool-Aide or Gatorade route for a child. There is still too much sugar and corn syrup, etc. If you do "sugar free" it is filled with sugar substitute, which is also not good. I would stay with the all fruit juices and water them down. A good choice is V8 Fusion LIGHT. This is the only good for you juice that I have found out there -real juice-less real sugar (from fruit). I think it is already a bit watered down.
Good luck! And keep trying water. My daughter loves it ice cold!!

Hey O., Juice has sugar. It's natural. The challenge is there is no delivery system when you drink it. The sugar goes right to the brain. I am glad you are noticing this and looking to do something about it.

My kids and all my clients only drink this:

One of my clients (Josh age 10) said "Thanks B., it's like you just put hand cream on my brain!"

Family Success Coach

Just an idea. My son (11) loves soda, but I hate for him to have it. So we "make" soda at home using no-added sugar cranberry juice (or any juice) and add sparkling water to it. What he really likes is the bubbles. By cutting the juice with sparkling water you'll cut the sugar and get him drinking water. My son, although older, also will drink anything with ice cubes, so maybe ice water?

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