That's the conclusion of a new study from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, which found that by the time children reach the age of 5, their consumption of carbonated beverages and fruit-flavored drinks surpasses their intake of the more-nutritious 100 percent juice.
The study, conducted with support from the Florida Department of Citrus, analyzed the beverage consumption of more than 10,000 children from various age groups.
While it found that most children are indeed within guidelines for juice intake established by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the beverage intake balance begins to weigh heavily towards sodas and fruit-flavored drinks as children age.
"Our research found that, at around age 7, children's consumption of 100 percent real juice flat-lines, while intake of fruit-flavored beverages increases. By the time children turn 13 years old, they are drinking nearly four times more carbonated soft drinks than 100 percent juice," said lead researcher Gail Rampersaud, in a prepared statement.
The study is published in the January 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Part of the problem, say ADA experts, is that some kids may be confused into thinking fruit-flavored drinks and "-ades" are as nutritious as 100 percent juice, when in fact they often have 10 percent or less real fruit juice, added sweeteners and less of the critical nutrients found in 100 percent juice.
The ADA recommends that in buying fruit juices, parents look for products that are labeled 100 percent juice and that children be encouraged to replace less nutritious beverages with healthier drinks such as milk, water or 100-percent juices.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that even with 100 percent juices, kids can get too much of a good thing. Here is a press release on their policy on juice intake.