Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Are Fruit Snacks Good Snacks?

Fruit snacks are handy—they come in individual packages and seem ideal for the family on the run. Of course, kids like them. "Fruit" appears in the name, making these snacks appear to be a good option, but are they any more than just candy?

Single serving packages of fruit snacks are low in calories and typically contain no fat, no cholesterol and low amounts of sodium. Many do contain vitamin C. But fruit snacks are also primarily SUGAR. Each pouch contains an average of 5 teaspoons of sugar (20 grams)! That nearly surpasses all the added sugar and empty calories a child should have in an entire day. And 100 calories that are empty calories aren't worth it!

As I like to tell my clients, “It’s not about what you shouldn’t be eating; it’s about what you should be eating.” In that convenient little pouch, where’s the stuff we should be eating? Fruit snacks don’t have fiber nor a mix of vitamins and antioxidants—things we should find in our fruit “snacks.” They also don’t have healthy fat or protein, other important components of nutritious and sustaining snacks.

If you break it down, fruit snacks are just fruit wannabes. They don’t make the grade! Why not go for the real thing? There are a variety of fruits that come in single-serving packages too, so they’re just as easy to grab when you need something quick. Fruit contains carbohydrates too, but it's the naturally-occurring type of sugar; that's not the same as the sugars found in fruit snacks. Some dried fruits do contain added sugars, so keep an eye out and purchase the unsweetened options as often as you can.

Next time you're looking for a fruity snack on-the-go, try these real fruit “snacks” instead. They'll give your kids (or you) the sweet taste they like with the nutrition they need.
  • Packaged apple slices
  • Grapes
  • Box of raisins
  • Single serving trail mix
  • Dried cranberries, cherries, apricots or banana slices
  • Dried strawberries (I have found them at Trader Joes. Mr. Patton says, "They taste like fruit roll-ups.")
  • Medjool dates--they're as sweet as candy! Higher in natural sugars, you only need two at a time.