Tuesday 11th November 2014

Headlines today have suggested that fruit juice should no longer be a part of your 5-A-DAY, in particular for children. Below is some information about fruit juice, what it contributes to the diet and the drinks that are recommended for children.

  • Unsweetened fruit juice can form part of a healthy, balanced diet, and is an important source of vitamin C in many children’s diets. The Latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that, on average, for 4-18 year olds, unsweetened fruit juices provide around 20% of total vitamin C intake. A 150ml glass of unsweetened orange juice can provide all the vitamin C requirements for a child as well as providing folate and potassium.
  • Providing a source of vitamin C at a meal will help iron absorption from plant sources. This may be particularly helpful for older girls (11-18 years) as there is evidence of iron deficiency in this age group. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey reported 5% of girls of this age to have iron levels indicative of deficiency, and 46% had inadequate intakes of iron, below the lower reference nutrient intake (the level that is insufficient for most people).
  • However, as unsweetened fruit juices contain free sugars (that have been released from where they are naturally present in the whole fruit), current recommendations are to limit consumption to a small 150ml glass a day. A practical tip to reduce sugars content is to dilute unsweetened fruit juice with water. This is a public health recommendation for younger children.

The School Food Standards have outlined healthier drinks for children

The School Food Standards set out the only drinks permitted during the school day as follows:

  • Plain water (still or carbonated);
  • Lower fat milk or lactose-reduced milk;
  • Fruit or vegetable juice (max 150mls);
  • Plain soya, rice or oat drinks enriched with calcium; plain fermented milk (e.g. yoghurt) drinks;
  • Combinations of fruit or vegetable juice with plain water (still or carbonated, with no added sugars or honey);
  • Combinations of fruit juice and lower fat milk or plain low-fat yoghurt, plain soya, rice or oat drinks enriched with calcium; cocoa and lower fat milk; flavoured lower fat milk all with less than 5% added sugars or honey;
  • Tea, coffee, hot chocolate.

Combination drinks are limited to a portion size of 330ml. They may contain added vitamins or minerals but no more than 150ml of fruit or vegetable juice. Fruit or vegetable juice combination drinks must be at least 45% fruit or vegetable juice by volume.

Drinks with added sugars

  • Based on the Eatwell Guide model, Public Health England advises us to limit our consumption of foods and drinks that are high in fat and/or sugars. Thus the consumption of sugars-sweetened beverages should be limited both in frequency and amount consumed.
  • You can check the ingredients labels to identify whether any sugars have been added to foods or drinks as the total sugars on the nutrition label will combine both naturally present sugars (that would be present in juice of fruit) and those that have been added.
  • Many products have been reformulated in recent years to contain less sugars and there are more low sugars and/or low calorie alternatives on the market, providing wider consumer choice.
  • Fruit juice counts towards the 5-A-DAY target
  • A small (150ml) glass of unsweetened 100% fruit juice can count as one of your ‘5-A-DAY.’ Although fruit juice contributes to total sugars and calorie intake, it can make a valuable contribution to the diet.


What does the National Diet and Nutrition Survey tell us about consumption of unsweetened fruit juice in children?



Average UK consumption per day g

% Consuming fruit juice

% Contribution to vitamin C



% Contribution to energy

% Contribution to NMES
















  • At present, unsweetened fruit juice provides 10% of non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES) (similar to free sugars) in the diet in 11-18 year olds but also provides 18% of their vitamin C intake, and only 2% of their energy (calorie) intake