Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chewy Fruit Snacks

I am yet to meet a child who doesn't LOVE chewy fruit snacks ! The marketing that goes into these products is excellent - Power Rangers, Princesses, Shrek, Indiana Jones, and the list goes on and on......

Often the packaging of these products states something to catch your eye - "100% Vitamin C", "80 calories", or "fat free". FAT FREE !!! But its certainly not sugar-free. The main ingredients are high fructose corn syrup and sugar.

Recently, a some what more 'sophisticated' (in terms of packaging) chewy fruit has emerged in the market - Florida's Natural Au'some Blueberry Fruit Juice Nuggets. The box contains 8 small packs (0.5 ounces each), smaller than the average packs, and so you are eating fewer calories (50 kcal) and less sugar. The first ingredients are fruit juice and puree from concentrate. But don't be fooled, it contains for the most part, the same ingredients (corn syrup, starch, dextrose) you find in your average 'Shrek' fruit snack.

What do I think of these snacks ? It depends which 'hat' I'm wearing, and whether we are talking about our children's diet or our own diet. I place these foods in the candy category. For adults, if you are eating a balanced, healthy diet, then go ahead and enjoy a bag of these 'organic' fruit nuggets. I consider these as 'discretionary calories' i.e. those calories that can be used ‘at your discretion’ after you've met your other nutrition requirements and as long as you haven't exceeded your daily energy intake. [note: most of us don't carry a nutrition calculator around with us, so keeping track of our energy intake is almost impossible!]. When we talk about discretionary calories, its better to eat something more 'nutrient dense' - so why not reach for a piece of fruit which would give you a lot more 'bang for your buck' ? But this may not satisfy your sweet craving which is probably the reason you've reached for the chewy fruits!

As a parent, I have been guilty of giving these snacks to my children on occasion. My mantra is "It won't hurt every now and then to have a bag of chewy fruit snacks". But as a nutritionist my mantra is "chewy fruit snacks have tooth decay written all over them and so reward your child with a piece of fruit". This is all very good but I've witnessed the meltdowns in the chewy fruit aisle - it not pretty.

1 comment:

  1. A couple of added comments:
    I just read the following "A US Court of Appeals said the packaging on Gerber's gummy candy for tots, formerly named "fruit juice snacks" deceived consumers because it carries images of real fruit, despite corn syrup and sugar topping the ingredient list".

    Hmm, I'm wondering if Florida Naturals packaging that includes the word 'organic' is misleading for consumers. We associate organic with better food quality compared to non-organic ....really, does it help if a fruit candy is organic or not ? Just a thought....