Many parents feel they are offering their children a nutritious beverage when they head to the juice aisle of the grocery store. Looking down the aisle you see many products touting that they are “100% Fruit Juice”. This seems a healthy choice, right? Fruit is great for children, so why not 100% fruit products? Sadly, when you reach for the 100% fruit product you may not be getting exactly what you intended.

What is 100% Fruit Juice?

This question may seem silly on the surface. Of course 100% fruit juice would be just that- 100% fruit juice. Unfortunately that’s not quite true. For a product to be labeled 100% fruit juice it simply means that everything in the bottle was expressed from a fruit or vegetable. Beware … there are a number of things that are expressed from fruit that are anything but natural.

That is how a product with ingredients like water, citric acid (for tartness), absorbic acid (Vitamin C) or natural flavor added can legally be labeled 100% fruit juice. That “natural” flavor can be concocted by a food scientist in a lab, just as long as it was created from a fruit or vegetable.

The legal guidelines can be found in the FDA”s Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Section 101.3. This section contains the following guidelines that enable the blurring of the lines in the “100% juice” claim even further.

(3) If the beverage contains 100 percent juice and also contains non-juice ingredients that do not result in a diminution of the juice soluble solids or, in the case of expressed juice, in a change in the volume, when the 100 percent juice declaration appears on a panel of the label that does not also bear the ingredient statement, it must be accompanied by the phrase “with added ___,” the blank filled in with a term such as “ingredient(s),” “preservative,” or “sweetener,” as appropriate (e.g., “100% juice with added sweetener”), except that when the presence of the non-juice ingredient(s) is declared as a part of the statement of identity of the product, this phrase need not accompany the 100 percent juice declaration.

In other words, so long as the added ingredients do not diminish the soluble solids of the fruit, they can be added without reducing the “100% Juice” claim. Though it is deceiving, it may not be so bad if the “with added ___” statement had to be placed directly under the “100% Juice” claim, but it doesn’t. The phrase need not accompany the 100% juice declaration, it just has to be on the container. This is where the handy little asterisk* comes into play.

So how can you get 100% juice without the added ingredients?

You can always juice your own fruit for the optimal in nutrition and for 100% pure fruit juice. However, this is not always practical for some families. So how can you ensure you are getting 100% pure fruit juice without all the fillers or added ingredients when you purchase a product from the shelf? Sadly you must read the labels. Reading the labels on your food products are the only way to ensure that the product you are getting is 100% pure. The only ingredient on the list should be fruit if the product is pure.

Aside from the obvious “extra” ingredients it should be noted that fruit and vegetable juices lose their nutrients incredibly fast. Freshly squeezed juice contains a punch of nutrients just like eating the real deal. However, once the fruit has been juiced, it should be drank immediately. In fact, within 15 minutes the bulk of the nutrients will have left the juice leaving you with mostly fruit sugar and water.  Therefore, instead of heading to the fruit juice aisle to fill those fruit and veggie servings, consider finding ways to incorporate whole fruits and veggies into your diet in a kid-friendly way.

What are your tips for getting your kids to eat their fruits and veggies? Did you know these hidden ingredients lurked in your “100% juice” drink?

This article is “100% Opinion” *

*with added truth