You run into the supermarket to grab quick snacks for the kids, maybe even yourself, and instead of grabbing fruits from the fruit aisle, you look for portable snacks that offer fruit. After all, you know that five-a-day is the goal when it comes to fruits, but you’re on the run all day long and these packaged fruit snacks won’t perish easily. Unfortunately, many of the snacks you may be grabbing are driven by added sugars and bear little resemblance to the real fruit advertised on the label.
According to a recent UK study, many of the fruit snacks being sold to kids have more sugar than standard candy offerings. In fact, out of 94 fruit snack products researchers examined, sold in major UK supermarkets, 80 contained more sugar than sweets. With rates of obesity in the UK similar to those in the U.S., this study offers pretty sobering information. The amounts of added sugars were as high as 81 grams of sugar per 100 gram of product. Obesity isn’t the only health hazard associated with excess sugar consumption. Tooth decay and oral health is clearly a consideration, given that heart health is directly associated with one’s oral health.
Even when you buy dried fruit, you have to consider the sugar and calorie load, despite its healthier origins. Yes, it’s a better selection than processed snacks made with fruit juice or fruit concentrate, but it should not be eaten without regard to portion control, because of its higher calorie base. It is a good option as a topping, add in to homemade trail mix, or even as a quick grab snack if you need some quick energy before or after a vigorous work out. Eating whole fruits should be the regular goal.
Unfortunately, when parents see the word “fruit” on a box of food, the immediate subliminal messaging is that it’s a healthier option. Fruit Loops is clearly not a great choice for daily cereal consumption despite its fruit moniker, nor are many of the fruit-based yogurts, which can have loads of added sugars and no real fruit. A muffin with blueberries is not necessarily healthy and can have just as much fat, sugar and calories as a donut or Danish. Seeing pureed fruit and concentrated fruit on a label still requires further examination of the nutrition label. Those terms do not mean real fruit.Based on this study, the British advocacy group, Action on Sugar has urged the UK government to set sugar regulations and specific sugar reduction targets for food manufacturers. In the U.S., the FDA is working on new nutrition guidelines and mandates for foods and health labels. The bottom line is that nothing substitutes for real whole foods. Parents have to make it their personal goal to limit processed foods and snacks and to examine food labels closely so they can make an educated assessment of the foods they are considering buying on a regular basis for meals and snacks. Real fruit or vegetable, or simple foods like unprocessed nuts and yogurts will beat most processed foods when it comes to choosing the healthiest foods for you and your family.
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Known as The HealthGal, expert contributor Amy Hendel is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, columnist, and brand ambassador, as well as a health coach. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, you can find her on Twitter @HealthGal1103 and on Facebook at TheHealthGal. Her personal mantra is “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”