Today at the library after reading a story, the librarian handed out a snack. I always cringe inside when I know my kids are going to be given unhealthy food, but I try not to be a total food Nazi (outside the house). I figure if my kids are constantly feeling deprived when all the other kids are getting a treat, it will eventually backfire. Anyway, when they handed out the "fruit" snacks, I opened it for my 2 year old, but I couldn't help reading the ingredient list on the back. "This has a lot of sugar," I lamented to the mom next to me. Her answer? "But at least they're fat free."
As Americans we are so concerned about what's not in food, it almost seems like we don't care what is in it. In this case, what was in it included: juice from concentrate (this means fruit sugar), corn syrup (processed sugar from corn), sugar, modified corn starch, Fruit Puree, Gelatin, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Alpha Tocopherol.
These particular fruit snacks say on the cover: "made with real fruit" and I think for a lot of parents, that's enough to convince them that it's healthy. We don't stop to think sometimes that "made with" is not the same as getting an actual piece of fruit. We've lost so much in the processing, and adding other ingredients, that we're not getting the benefits of fruit at all.
Most shocking to me was that this one toddler sized serving of fruit snacks contains 23 grams of sugar. In one teaspoon there are 4 grams of sugar, so in this one little fruit snack pack-- 5.75 teaspoons of sugar! And the fact that they are fat free, like the other mom was so relieved about, is actually worse. There is no fat, fiber (0 grams) and only minimal protein (1 gram) to slow down the rush of sugar into the bloodstream. In nourishing traditions, Sally Fallon explains, "In nature, sugars and carbohydrates...are linked together with vitamins, minerals, fat and fiber--the bodybuilding and digestion regulating components of the diet." Fruit snacks are about as far from nature as you can get.
This is one of those hard calls as a mom: risk a fit-throwing hungry toddler, who may grow up feeling deprived, or feed him processed sugar masquerading as a healthy snack.