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Worst back-to-school beverages

You won't give your child Pixy Stixs or Tootsie Rolls for breakfast, right?  But some juices contain an astonishing amount of sugar --some the equivalent of a handful of candy.  

As kids head back to school this week, parents are taking a closer look at what they put in their children's lunch boxes. 

At least 16 states in the U.S. have enacted legislation to limit the consumption of sugary drinks in schools. Some restrictions require that juices be made with 100 percent fruit, with no added sweeteners, while others rule out sodas and carbonated beverages.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA) the average 1 to 3 year-old consumes around 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, 21 teaspoons a day for 4 to 8 year olds, and over 34 teaspoons for 14-18 year-olds.

“If there are words ending in o-s-e, syrups, food colorings or artificial sweetener, put it back.”

- Laura Cipullo, family nutritionist and creator of MomDishesItOut.com

“Excess sugar in any form has negative health implications, sugary drinks are one of the worst culprits because kids often drink them between meals as well as with meals and most often do not even think about them as 'food' or a source of calories,” Mira Calton a licensed certified nutritionist told FoxNews.com.

While most people are aware that too much sugar can increase the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, Calton says some parents don’t realize that sugar also puts a child’s immune system in jeopardy. 

“Sugar competes for the same receptor site in cells as vitamin C, so when sugar gets into those sites first and restricts vitamin C from entry, a child’s immune system can be greatly compromised and colds and infections can increase.”

Lyss Stern, mother and founder of DivaMoms.com says that although schools may forget that kids are kids and can afford to have things that aren’t necessarily 100 percent natural and perfectly healthy, “it's important to instill healthy eating and drinking values in our children at an early age. It's all about balance and compromise,” she told FoxNews.com.

Turning your grocery cart down the beverage aisle doesn’t have to be such a daunting experience. By learning how to decipher between misleading marketing descriptions and real nutrition facts you can make sure you’re sending off your little ones with nutrient rich refreshments.

“Look at the label and make sure fruit or fruit concentrate are the first ingredients,” family nutritionist and creator of MomDishesItOut.com Laura Cipullo said. “If there are words ending in o-s-e, syrups, food colorings or artificial sweetener, put it back.”

We took a look at the sugar content in some popular juices that might may make it on to the lunch tray and did a comparison to some sugary snacks.  The results may make you think twice about what you're tossing in your child's brown bag.

Here is a list of some of the worst culprits:

Minute Maid Apple Juice vs. Dunkin Donuts:
One 15.2 fl oz bottle of Minute Maid Apple Juice has 52 grams of sugar, the same amount of sugar in about 25 Dunkin Donut sugared munchkins.

Hi-C Poppin’ Lemonade vs. Krispy Kreme:
One 6.75 fl oz juice box of Hi-C Poppin’ Lemonade has 26 grams of sugar. In such a tiny kid-sized box it has 7 grams more sugar than a Krispy Kreme chocolate iced custard filled donut.

Minute Maid Orange Juice vs. Fruit Loops:
The sugar in one 15.2 fl oz bottle of Minute Maid Orange juice is equivalent to 4 cups of Kellogg’s Fruit Loops (48g).

Sobe Citrus Energy vs. Pixy Stixs:
You could eat about 29 sugar-filled straws of Pixy Stixs for the same amount of sugar in one 20 fl oz Sobe Citrus Energy drink (63g- about 12 ½ teaspoons).

Tropicana Twister Orange Strawberry Banana Burst vs. Tootsie Rolls:
One 20 fl oz bottle of Tropicana Twister has 64 grams of sugar, just about as much sugar as 21 Tootsie Roll candies.

If this increases your blood pressure by just reading this, don't worry, there are some healthier alternatives you can turn to. We took a look at some of the most popular beverage that kids like and tried to find a comparable drink with lower-sugar content. While some of these contain a fair amount of sugar, they have a lower amount than the mainstream brands. Here is a list of some healthier, and still good-tasting back-to-school beverages:

Zevia Mountain Zevia, the “All Natural Soda”:
If your kids just can’t live without a daily dose of soda try handing them this carbonated alternative. With zero grams of sugar it blows out regular soda drinks like Mountain Dew that contains 46 grams of sugar in a single 12 fl oz can.

Lakewood Organic Cranberry Blend:
A mix of organic cranberries, apples and grapes, this natural and 100 percent fresh pressed juice has 20 grams of sugar in an 8oz serving.  Compared to other cranberry blends like Minute Maid’s Cran-Grape that holds a hefty 38 grams of sugar it’s a delicious and healthier way to go. Your kids will also get two full servings of fruit for the day without even knowing it!

Stevita’s Fruit Flavored Powdered Drink Mixes:
Available in fun flavors like lime, cherry, grape, orange and strawberry, this tasty substitute has zero grams of sugar and is a perfect option for kids who love sweet summer-time drinks. So ditch the fat smiling Kool-Aid man and save your kids16 grams of sugar that his 19 oz cherry mix comes with.

Hint Fizz:
A natural, calorie & sugar free unsweetened sparkling water refreshment that doesn’t skimp on flavor. With a wide variety of flavors like blackberry, watermelon, strawberry-kiwi and peach it’s no wonder this drink won this year’s Better Homes and Gardens Best New Product Award. While water may always seem like the winning choice, some other “water” products like Vitamin Water Focus in kiwi-strawberry packs in 33 grams of sugar in just one 20 fl oz bottle.

Zico Pomberry Coconut Water:
Seen as a healthier alternative to a sports drink this berry and pomegranate mix has 12 grams of sugar in one 14 fl oz bottle. Unlike popular sports drinks like Gatorade’s G Series Recover that also holds 40 grams of sugar in one 16.9 fl oz bottle, Zico coconut water naturally contains electrolytes that are lost during a good sweat session. The natural coconut blend also contains almost 15 times more potassium than the Gatorade G series beverage.

“A little sugar is not harmful for a child. It really comes down to their entire diet for the day. When serving a beverage with added sugar, pay attention to the serving size and make sure it isn’t replacing a more nutritious choice,” said Keri Gans, registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet.