Worst Food of the Week: Fruit Snacks

DEAR EVERYONE: STOP GIVING KIDS FRUIT SNACKS AS IF THEY AREN’T GLORIFIED CANDY. The ingredients are so similar, the cost so much more, and these gummy globs of sugar are keeping kids from eating actual fruits. Think I’m overreacting? Read on.

The packaging of fruit snacks gives us with the impression that they are in some way healthy. It’s not true. Sure, some fruit snacks have fruit juice, some don’t but the amount of fruit juice isn’t enough to add justifiable nutritional value. Sure, some fruit snacks are fortified with vitamin C or calcium, some aren’t but eating fortified gelatinous sugar globs shouldn’t be the way our kids get vitamins or minerals.

In case you are thinking “My kids don’t eat a lot of fruit, so this is a way to get vitamin C into their diets”, take a step back and think about this: How will you ever get your kids to eat more fruit if you give them super-sweet, chewy, no-texture fruit snacks instead?

EATING FRUIT SNACKS BLURS THE LINE BETWEEN FRUIT AND CANDY FOR KIDS – something we definitely don’t want to do. Treat is treat, fruit is fruit. Just because something has fruit juice or fruit on the package doesn’t make it a substitute for fruit or a good snack option. And we need to pass that knowledge on to our kids.

Plus, those gummy things stick to kids teeth. Can you say cavities?

Check out this comparison between popular fruit snacks and similar candy:

Welch’s Fruit snacks
Juice from Concentrates (Grape, Peach, Pear and Pineapple), Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Fruit Puree (Grape, Apple, Strawberry and Raspberry), Gelatin, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Coconut Oil, Sodium Citrate, Carnauba Wax, Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E) Red 40 (Color), Yellow 5 (Color), Blue 1 (Color), Vitamin A (Vitamin A Palmitate and Beta Carotene).
Kellogg’s Clever Kids Letter Bites fruit flavored snacks
Corn Syrup, Sugar, Apple Puree Concentrate, Water, Modified Corn Starch, Gelatin, Contains Two Percent Or Less Of Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Color Added, Coconut Oil, Carnauba Wax, Yellow #5, Red #40, Sodium Citrate, Blue #1.
Haribo Gummi Candy
Corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, dextrose, citric acid, starch, artificial and natural flavors, fractionated coconut oil, carnuba wax, beeswax coating,, artificial colors: FD & C yellow no. 5, red no. 40,blue no.1

All three contain artificial colors, and all three have corn syrup and sugar in the top three ingredients. If you think by going organic your doing better, think again:

Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
Organic Tapioca
Syrup, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Tapioca Syrup Solids, Organic White Grape Juice Concentrate, Pectin,Citric Acid,
Ascorbic Acid, Color (Black Carrot Juice Concentrate), Natural Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Organic Sunflower Oil, Carnauba Wax (From Palm Leaves).
YummyEarth Organic Gummy Bears
Organic Rice syrup, organic cane sugar, gelatin, organic carrot juice, organic aronia juice, organic black currant, organic curcuma, natural flavor, citric acid, ascorbic acid, organic sunflower oil.

Again, the ingredients are very similar. The candy costs quite a bit less, too —  about $.40 less an ounce in the in the Annie’s vs. YummyEarth gummy bears case. Wow.

The bottom line:

No matter what the package says, let’s not be fooled. Fruit snacks are a treat food. They aren’t healthy, they aren’t fruit, and they won’t make our kids clever (ahem Kellogg’s) If you want to give your kids fruit snacks, go for it, but as candy, not as a between meal snack. Or, hey, save yourself some money and just buy some gummy bears.

6 comments for “Worst Food of the Week: Fruit Snacks

  1. Corey
    November 12, 2010 at 10:29 am

    None of them have artificial colors in the top 3 ingredients? They have them yes… but not in the top three, actually among the last ingredients listed (and therefore lowest amount by %) Just an FYI :)

  2. cat
    November 13, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Corey, you are right that my phrasing was bad. I fixed it. With or without artificial colors, fruit snacks are still glorified candy!

  3. Corey
    November 15, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Yea, I would call them a treat-snack for sure. I personally have never thought of fruit snacks as a healthier option, just a gummi that tends to be fruit flavored, tasty maybe, but I never considered them actual fruit.

  4. November 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Fruit roll ups played big roll in my career change from dentist to school food activist. I couldn’t believe they were selling this crap in the cafeteria. I made lots of trouble, ended up in a couple of movies (Two Angry Moms and Killer at Large) and started a not for profit- Better School Food.

    Now, 10+ years later, my kid’s school sells Fruit Snacks. As if it is some sort of better choice. Its all one big sugar hit that rots teeth, expands waistlines and creates inability to focus and pay attention in the classroom.

    I could have remained a dentist and laughed all the way to the bank. All this chewy sugary junk along with sports drinks has caused decay rates to skyrocket.

    When will people learn to just eat real food?

  5. Sparkina
    March 3, 2011 at 12:22 am

    The best fruit snack is — FRUIT! Dried — raisins, dried apricots, figs and dates if you’re feeling fancy, or crunchy freeze-dried fruit or preferably fresh — clementines, mangoes, berries, apples. All of them are jam-packed with nutrients and taste absolutely divine.

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