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Friday, January 29, 2010

One moms "healthy snack" is this mom's nightmare

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.

This post is part of fight back friday at food renegade.


  1. ugh. id give one peice and throw the rest away. thats as much sugar as 1/2 cup haagan daz ice cream! id way rather eat a decadent bowl of ice cream that at least has some calcim, protien and fat... its such an uphill battle at times.

  2. My kids are older, so it's the sodas for me! It's my biggest nightmare, the amount of SODA they get for prizes @ school. Read the most amount of books in 9 weeks? Get a soda. Make honor roll, get a soda. 50th anniversary of the school, have a soda. Seems like once a week my darn kids are coming into the car with a Dr. Pepper can.

    Yes, I want them to have choices, but why does the schools need to reward them with soda?

  3. I am in this situation quite a bit. My one daughter at seven can not tolerate any amount of sugar, preservatives, artifical coloring, etc. without breaking out. Plus, I really do not want my other three daughters to have it either. I just smile and say, "Thank you so very much but we brought snacks with us today." Then I make sure that I have a good healthy but fun snack for the girls to have in the van.

    No one has ever seems to mind on either end.

  4. Emily, I think I will try that with my 2 year old- I'll open it and empty all but one or two out so he won't notice.
    motherhen68, I'm in California and it's against the law for schools to give out junk food here, yet somehow my first grader has come home telline me about soda, popsicles, candy and cupcakes that she's gotten at school! And someday they will get out into the world and get to choose whatever food they want to eat, but hopefully we can train their taste buds while they are under our care at home first.
    Amy, way to go for raising good kids who let you do that! :) I think I need to work with mine a little because they would feel really ripped off if I tried that.

  5. i'm glad i found and started to read your blog the other day. this blog was an eye opener for me. I kenw fruit snacks weren't "good" for anyone but i didn't realize how much sugar they were putting into them either. when you said had 5.75 teaspoons of sugar i imagined myself telling riley to open up and shoveling five actual teaspoons of sugar in. EW! I have a LOT to learn. i try to focus on portion control and sweets as a treat. but this really got me more motivated to step up my game and get my family eating much healthier. I have a cuteeee and necessary in my house,nutrition craft idea i want emily to help me do, i'll have to include you, its super cute in my head :) p.s.i'm racking my head trying to think of a healthy, pre-packaged snack to share for library, can't think of any...can you?

  6. yoga chips, they are pricey but better then the usual fare. or justins almond butter individual packs.

  7. yikes! that IS a lot of sugar...

  8. I've never heard of yoga chips, what are those?
    I can't really think of anything realistic that the library could do either, because it has to be super cheap and last forever, and she never knows how many people are going to be there. But I would love to see something like a fruit or vegetable, or cheese squares. That might all be wishful thinking though...

  9. I can't help but comment on every one of your posts LOL!
    I feel so good knowing that I am not the only mother who thinks this way, You give me comfort knowing I'm not alone. I have done the trick with the fruit snacks, after opening it I sneak a few out before giving it to them and the child is none the wiser.
    It's like you are reading my mind about the sugar and the no fat. You have the option to eat the good kinds of fat and shouldn't be so worried about "no fat".
    I have a hard time trying to teach my son why we don't eat these unhealthy things when he sees others eat it every day for school lunch. He asks why they do and he can't. It's hard to help him understand that we know better without making the other people seem like they don't care.
    Have you ever made your own fruit snacks, dried fruit and fruit leather? My kids love that and it's pure fruit nothing else.

  10. My kids love those too. We got some free peaches last year and I tried a little bit of everything with those: peach salsa, peach jam, canned peaches, peach fruit fact, I still have a frozen bag of peaches, I may have to use those for fruit leathers again!

  11. I'm happy to say my family has been fruit snack free for quite a while now! (cavaties at the dentist is one incentive)
    P.S... your blog is looking good! Thanks for sharing all this helpful info!