Smoothies for Kids: Just Another Sugary Drink

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They are colorful, squeezable and have the term fruit all over, but kid-friendly smoothies are often just another sugary drink, as a study published last month highlighted. That study found that these drinks in the United Kingdom often come with as much added sugars as soda, giving a young child half of the highest amount of added sugar recommended per day.

That can lead to unhealthy weight gain in children. And that weight gain can mean higher cancer risk when children become adults, because many cancers are now linked to obesity, including colorectal and postmenopausal breast.

In the US, the story on smoothies is much the same. Many of the baby and child-focused drinks are called smoothies but the first two ingredients are milk and sugar. After that, comes fruit purees or juices, which means there is more sugar added than fruit. And some smoothies are simply milk, sugar and flavors, with no fruit at all. In two familiar brands, added sugar alone contributes 40-50% of the calories.Sugar in kids drinks[1]

The chart above shows that in these baby or kid-sized portions, one-half cup or 4 ounces, your child will be consuming at least 3 teaspoons of added sugar. And that’s half of the most sugar a young child should have in one day according to the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines.

Reading the label and ingredients is one way to know whether the smoothie or drink contains the ingredients you want, like fruit or yogurt, or if it’s loaded with sugar.

You might consider limiting these drinks to ones you and your kids make at home. Blending plain yogurt or milk with whole fruit, peanut or other nut butters and flavorings like vanilla or cinnamon can provide tasty, filling and nutrient packed snacks without too much sugar.

Make our delicious Strawberry Chia Smoothie with your kids for a refreshing spring time snack.


Author: Alice RD

Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention into action by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

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