Children can be a bit picky when it comes to eating healthy. Parents almost have to be detectives and sly when incorporating healthy foods that their children enjoy. Parents may allow their children a treat or dessert, such as ice cream or candy once in a while and may gravitate toward the fruit snack because it sounds so healthy and it has fruit in its name. Not so fast, let’s understand the facts.

It is important to understand that  fruit snacks are not a fruit substitute and have been classified by nutritionists as being slightly better than gummies.  Many fruit snacks are artificially flavored and packed with added sugars and artificial colors and have little to no vitamin content. Many of these snacks have corn syrup and sugar as their first ingredients and a high sugar content per serving.

Over the past decade, parents and health groups have raised their concerns over the deceptive marketing of these snacks as fruit.  As a result, some companies have been improving their ingredients and new companies have been debuting their more nutritious versions.  Some brands are made with only dried fruit or fruit puree as their first ingredient.  Others have reduced the sugar content per serving and some only use natural and organic flavoring rather than food dyes. All fruit snacks are inherently lower in calories, low in sodium and free from fat or cholesterol, but so are chewy candies like gummy bears.  Some fruit snacks even make the School Nutrition Guidelines’ cut for vending machines based on real fruit being the first ingredient and sugar, calorie and sodium content being under a specified level.

Bottom line —  a fruit, such as an apple or pear, is a fruit and a fruit snack is a pre-packaged snack. If you opt to allow your child to have an occasional fruit snack please review the nutritional label and make an informed decision.

Sample of Fruit Snacks and Nutritional Information:

Brand Serving Size Calories Total Carbs Total Sugar First Ingredient Organic? Other?
Annie’s Homegrown Fruit Snacks 23g 70 18 10g (no added sugar) Organic Tapioca Syrup Yes No food dyes
Welch’s Fruit Snacks 25.5g 80 19 11g (includes 9g added sugar) Fruit Puree No Vitamins
Welch’s reduced sugar Fruit Snacks 22.7g 60 17 7g (includes 5g added sugar) Fruit Puree No Vitamins
That’s It Fruit Bar 35g 100 27 23g (no added sugar) Only Apples and Mangos Vitamins, Fiber
Yum Earth Fruit Snacks 30g 100 24 19g (all added sugars) Organic Rice Syrup Yes No
Stretch Island Fruit leather 14g 50 12 10g (no added sugar) Fruit Puree No Fiber
Fruit Rolls Bear 20g 60 13 8g (no added sugars) Fruit No Iron and Fiber

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