Surprising HFCS food of the week

>> Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I don't know why this one always catches me off guard, but it does. Today's surprising HFCS food of the week is JUICE! I guess I always find it surprising because juice is thought to be so good for you, and yet it's so often a little juice floating in a sea of HFCS or sugar.

I was shopping for cranberry juice a couple of weeks ago and picked up some Langers Cranberry juice. I've gotten this brand before and was happy with is. So, I was surprised when I flipped it around to glance at the ingredients and saw that HFCS was the second ingredient! Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail is not immune - HFCS is the third ingredient (at least it's after cranberry juice this time!). Not all Langers and Ocean Spray juices contain HFCS - it pays to read those ingredients! Langers Plus juices, for example, use only other fruit juices to sweeten their cranberry juice - no HFCS or sucrose.

Cranberry juice swimming in HFCS

Cranberries are very tart, so it isn't unusual (in fact, it's the norm) for cranberry juice to be sweetened with sugar or another very sweet fruit juice (like apple juice), but HFCS in a fruit juice product is not an unusual thing. And sadly, products geared toward kids seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to adding HFCS to fruit juice products. Have you looked at the ingredients in a pack of Caprisun? Even some of the Minute Maid juice pouches contain HFCS!
Kids' juice prducts are often full of HFCS

So, what do you do? Read the ingredients!
For kids' products, look for 100% juice products. Those products almost certainly contain apple juice as the main ingredient (not my favorite juice - it's one of the least nutritious juices out there - a junk juice to me!), but at least it isn't HFCS or a sugar syrup. There is still some redeeming value to apple juice - the same cannot be said for sugar syrup. The most nutritious bets for juice boxes are ones that use orange juice or concord grape juice - both great juices worth drinking - but those usually aren't my kids' favorites.
Look for 100% juice on kids' juice products

There are also several "flavored water" pouches out there that are mostly water, sometimes a little sugar (but often less total sugar than found in a regular juice box), and sometimes a little fruit juice for flavoring. (Watch the ingredients, though, because some do contain HFCS!) I think that these can be good options too if you're looking for a pouch drink. Honest Kids is one of our favorites in this category.
Honest Kids and Minute Maid Fruit Falls are both HFCS free

For adults and kids alike - HFCS or not - remember that fruit juices should be a treat and not the primary drink for the day. A little juice at breakfast or with a snack is fine and dandy, but fruit juice with breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn't recommended. Even the juices packed with good stuff - like orange, cranberry, pomegranate, and Concord grape juice - are also packed with sugar in the form of fructose.


Mark February 24, 2009 at 9:55 AM  

Okay the Minute Maid and Caprisun is a disappointment. Shame on me for not paying closer attention! Thanks cathy!

merathon February 24, 2009 at 12:16 PM  

we like the minute maid fruit falls as well. at home, we solely drink water, but when it's my turn to bring drinks for all the kids after the soccer game, i always get the fruit falls! they are the ONLY ones at our grocery store that i feel good about getting!

Amy February 24, 2009 at 12:33 PM  

I also get Juicy Juice in the little boxes. Something really surprising to me was at my Costco, the Capri Sun with no sugar added, 100% fruit juice, cost the same as the Capri Sun full of sugar! Why would any one by the latter, I always wonder.

My Year Without February 24, 2009 at 2:02 PM  

wow, just when you get a UTI and need cranberry juice! what a shame.

i've had unsweetened cran juice before, and the trick is to water it down and even add ice. it's still pretty tart, but palatable without the added calories from sweeteners. also, i've mixed it with other juices that are a bit sweeter, but still 100% juice.

laura February 24, 2009 at 3:21 PM  

I have tried the 100% cranberry juice, too, and agree--whew, it's tart. It's great mixed half and half (which is still more juice % than cocktail) with soda, but unless you buy the pricier all-sugar stuff that kind of misses the point :)

Lori February 25, 2009 at 10:39 AM  

I'm always on the lookout when it comes to juice drinks and cocktails. When I do buy juice it is always 100% juice. I really like the cranberry although the tart is what I really like about it so it isn't a problem for me. Thanks for passing on your findings. :)

James Hubbard M.D. M.P.H. February 25, 2009 at 3:26 PM  

Good to know Cathy. Drink the tart for UTI's.

Sagan February 25, 2009 at 7:29 PM  

Ugh, my sister and I were shopping for juice for mixers for a party one time and I had to go up and down the aisle reading every ingredients list before I finally found ONE juice that was satisfactory. It's ridiculous.

katy February 26, 2009 at 7:29 AM  

Thanks for the alert.

I usually buy 100% juice, and even then I water it down. Juice is pretty much just for taste, not much nutrition anyway, so watering it down a bit stretches the budget.

laura March 4, 2009 at 2:20 PM  

Thought you might find this interesting--the Langers cranberry juice cocktail I picked up today at Safeway is not only HFCS-free, but also has a little bit on the label about HFCS and metabolism. We aren't exactly on the cutting edge around here, so I haven't a clue what the story is behind the difference :)

Erin March 8, 2009 at 6:47 AM  

I've been keen to this for a while, and periodically check our juice brand's ingredients. Our store brand, 100% juice, does not contain HFCS and is sweetened primarily by apple juice. I also water down the juice 50-50 for the kids whenever they get it (my daughter is a juice-junkie), and it's always been this way around our home. Half-water is great for cutting sugar and keeping the kids hydrated.

When it was our turn to provide drinks/snacks for playgroup or preschool, I can't tell you about the strange looks I got from people wheeling down the aisle as I was stuck there reading juice box ingredients with 3 kids squirming in/around my cart! But the homework paid off: Nestle's Juicy Juice 100% Juice boxes are a nice treat. Serving size and sugars are key for 3-5 year olds; the 125mL size is great. I still check the ingredients from time to time just to make sure the formula doesn't change.

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