Does that surprise you? It confuses the heck out of my kids. They love taking fruit leather to school because it’s tasty and they can eat it fast in the short amount of time they have for lunch. When they see “fruit snacks” on our way to check out at Costco, they don’t understand why it’s not good for them. It says “fruit” right on the front!
Once or twice I’ve pulled down a box and let my son read the ingredients. Each time, we’ve found things like artificial food dyes and high fructose corn syrup, and a high sugar content.
My five year old doesn’t get it. A fruit snack around our house is a banana, raisins with almonds, or maybe an apple with almond butter. These gummies look like candy (and have the sugar content of a treat), not a “fruit snack”.
As a parent, it’s challenging to explain marketing efforts to kids – and I’m a marketer! When candy is called cereal or fruit snacks, or when juice is full of sugar, when wheat bread includes high fructose corn syrup, or popcorn is colored with food dyes. These are all foods that can be healthy, but sometimes aren’t.
What can we do? Eat real food, and read labels. Here’s a few tips to help out:
- Check on the ingredients – look for added preservatives, artificial flavors and coloring
- Watch the amount of sodium and sugars – and keep in mind that the Recommended Daily Value is for adults. Children’s requirements are much lower.
- Be on the lookout for health claims – they often distract you from health risks! In fact, Michael Pollan suggests we stay away from any food with a health claim.
- Fat free is misleading – licorice is fat free but it’s not part of a healthy breakfast. Fat free foods can often have a high sugar content. Remember: something has to make it taste good.
- Go natural! Look for Annie’s Organic Bunny Gummies, or Fruitabu for gummy treats without the artifical ingredients.
If you’re going to buy the fruit snacks, let’s just make sure our kids know what it really is: a treat. Certainly not a serving of fruit.