Fruit Snacks are Actually Gummy Bears in Disguise


Fruit Snacks are Gummy Bears in DisguiseWorking as a pediatric dietitian, many parents tell me they offer their kids junk food. I never judge. My kids love junk food, and I do too, especially dark chocolate (which according to some researchers, has some health benefits). It irks me that parents are duped into unknowingly offering their kids foods they believe are healthy, when these foods are actually junk. Deceptive marketing helps food companies make a profit. They spend millions on it.

Just because it contains the word “fruit” on the label, parents everywhere assume that “fruit snacks” are a healthy choice for their kids!

Recently, companies began adding vitamins to fruit snacks to create the illusion that these “candies” are actually nutritious. I hear from parents all the time who wonder why their kids are getting so many cavities. It’s because the lovely gelatin- and sugar-filled “fruit” is sticking to the surface of their child’s teeth!

My son recently asked for fruit snacks on his ice cream when we were at an ice cream stand. I said, “You mean Gummy Bears?”

Then I got to thinking about how similar fruit snacks really are to Gummy Bears. I know this is mind-blowing information for many, but other than a little bit of extra gelatin in one, or Vitamin C added to another, they are almost identical in nutritional value! I have to give fruit snacks props for trying, however. After a class action lawsuit was filed in 2015, one company began adding some actual fruit puree to their snacks. How they market that little package of fruit puree with additives; however, is not commendable. Food labels are highly regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and must be factual. That doesn’t mean they are so easy to interpret.

Fruit snacks make nutrient content claims on their labels. While they do contain the nutrients they claim to have, the actual implied health benefit of those nutrients is suspect. Here is a list of things I found on fruit snack labels and my thoughts about them:

Fruit Snacks Ingredients 600 x 400

  • Contains 100% DV (daily value) Vitamin C: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an absolutely necessary vitamin to keep us healthy. In addition to its reputation for alleviating the common cold, it prevents an awful disease called scurvy.  Scurvy occurred centuries ago when people crossed the oceans without access to fresh foods for long periods of time. If your kid is crossing the Atlantic this school year without access to foods that contain Vitamin C, then by all means, pack him some fruit snacks! Vitamin C is readily available in many other whole fruit items that also contain antioxidants, fiber, pectin, and vitamins.
  • Includes 25% DV (daily value) Vitamins A & E: These are fat soluble vitamins, necessary for many functions in the body, that are also antioxidants, great for destroying free radicals. Vitamin A is found in foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and eggs. Most milk is also fortified with Vitamin A, a beverage most children drink plenty of. Vitamin E is found in peanut butter, along with other nuts and seeds and some fruits and vegetables. History shows us that adding micro nutrients to foods can help prevent disease; however with the wide variety of foods available year-round in the United States now, these are not nutrients kids’ diets typically lack. I am unsure as to why the fruit snacks industry feels the need to serve up vitamins wrapped up in gelatin and sugar.
  • Fat-free: The ingredient list actually states that it contains coconut oil–which is a fat. Because in one serving you will only consume trace amounts of fat,  they are actually allowed to advertise the snack as fat-free.
  • Gluten-free: True! No there is no wheat in fruit snacks, only coGummy Bears (2)rn syrup.
  • No Preservatives: It’s a true statement that fruit snacks may not contain any ingredient classified as a preservative. They do however contain multiple food additives that you would not otherwise find in fruit, such as: carnauba wax, sodium citrate, Red #40, and Blue #1.

Moms, you can read for yourselves what is actually in these foods, I’ve included the ingredients of both fruit snacks and Gummy Bears.

Kids love fruit snacks; why wouldn’t they? They are sweet and chewy and yummy! I am not saying your kids should never have fruit snacks. If you are okay with providing the smidgen of fruit puree all wrapped up in sugar, corn starch, and other chemical additives, then all the power to you. Just be true to yourself that these snacks in no way count as a serving of fruit.