Our busy lifestyles often mean parents are pressed for time looking for what they think are healthy snacks for their kids.
But the truth behind the popular foods couldn’t be more different, a nutritionist warns.
Natalie Burrows is running Integralwellness.co.uk and warns parents of the danger of assuming that popular lunchbox fruit snacks bring health benefits to their children.
Natalie says: “The modern world is hectic. When you include kids, and the time commitment leads parents to look for what they think of as “healthy” ready meals, and that includes the lunch box snacks.
“But it’s just as easy and more nutritious to have a piece of whole fruit instead of those snack bars.
“These fruit bars lack fiber and are high in sugar, so kids will soon be craving another snack.
“Not because they’re hungry, but because they’re intuitively trying to stabilize their blood sugar roller coaster ride.
“If you read the nutritional information for each product, you’ll see a common theme: high in sugar, low in fiber, no fats, and no protein.”
Natalie also points out that they are more expensive than a bag of apples, which can cost less than £1.
For the first time, there are more than 5 million diabetics in the UK, with 90 per cent having type 2 diabetes and almost 1,600 cases being in the under 18s.
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Fruit snacks like these add to the metabolic chaos we find ourselves in.
Here Natalie decodes the nutrition facts on a range of popular but unhealthy fruit snacks…
1. Tesco Strawberry Bites, £1.90
The back of the pack says “sweetened pieces of fruit”. Why are pieces of fruit sweetened? Fruit is naturally sweet.
That extra “sweetness” helps ensure that one bag – which weighs just 25g – contains a whopping 15.5g of sugar, which is 62 percent sugar.
Fiber is important for a healthy gut, including gut motility, which many children struggle with, as well as the immune system and weight control, but it only contains 0.2g of fiber.
Fruit can be a great source of fiber, but this product has managed to extract all the fiber and boosted the sugar content to exorbitant levels.
If we break down the ingredients, the first ingredient is “yogurt-flavored topping,” which makes up 57 percent of the ingredients list.
But if you read on, you’ll find that the main ingredient in “yogurt” is sugar.
After the “yoghurt-flavored coating,” the next ingredient is also sugar, followed by fructose syrup, a type of sugar.
So the first three ingredients in this food are sugar, and yet the first word on the label is “strawberry.”
2. Strawberry, Apple & Orange Fruit Strings from The Fruit Factory, £2.35
I don’t even praise the brand name – what is fruit doing in a factory? Shouldn’t it be in a field or on a farm?
Concentrated fruit juices make up 24 percent of those fruit strings, but in this concentrated blend there’s glucose syrup (aka sugar), sugar, and sorbitol (a sugar alcohol that can negatively impact the gut microbiome and contribute to diarrhea). .
There’s another fruit and vegetable concentrate and some ingredients that are also touted as “superfoods” — curcumin (aka turmeric) and spirulina.
They’re so low on the list that they’re probably too small to offer any real benefit.
There’s 7.4g of sugar in a 20g sachet, which at 37 percent is one of the lowest levels we’ve tested.
However, the other “good” ingredients are also low: 0.6g fiber (most children need 15-20g per day), 0.4g fat and 1.7g protein.
Protein and healthy fats are fundamental to children’s development, and yet, high levels of sugar and a complete lack of protein, fat, and fiber can be found in these snacks.
3. Tesco 5 mango and banana bars, £2
The ingredient list is light with dates, dried mango (20 percent), and dried banana (12 percent).
We can assume that dates make up the remaining 68 percent of the ingredients.
Sugar makes up more than half the nutritional value of this 30g bar at 16.1g.
Most of the water is removed from dried fruit and the end product is very sugary.
Dates are about 65 percent sugar, which is why they’re so sweet and why they’re often used in place of white refined sugar in baking.
Between 22 and 51 percent of that sugar content is fructose, and eating a lot of fructose can have negative effects on your metabolism — type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.
It’s also a known trigger for some people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
The recommended sugar intake for children aged 4 to 6 is only 19g and increases only slightly to 24g by 7 to 10 year olds.
This is a recommended limit, not a target – but a bar from it almost surpasses this limit in one fell swoop.
However, this bar wins the fiber contest with 3.7g of fiber per bar, which is almost a third for 2-5 year olds who are recommended 15g per day, and a quarter for 5-11 year olds who should aim for 20g .
4. Fruit Bowl blackcurrant peelers, £2.50
It’s claims like the one on this pack that you’re “one of your five a day” that lead shoppers to believe they’re buying whole fruit equivalents.
Considering that 677g of apples, 26g of blackcurrants and 17g of elderberries are used to make this 100g snack, it’s surprising that only 7.5g is fiber – 677g of whole apples alone would be 15 G.
However, this is not uncommon in highly processed foods. Nutrients are lost during processing – dietary fiber as well as vitamins and minerals.
Less sugar than some but still a hit at half the recommended upper limit for sugar for children aged 4-6 at 9.3g of sugar per peeler.
5. Aldi’s The Foodie Market Raspberry Dinos, £1.69
Fruit puree is something that has been boiled, ground, pressed, blended, or sifted to the consistency of a creamy paste or liquid.
This product is 62 percent applesauce.
So not only is it a highly processed food, but the job of the stomach – breaking down the food before it is absorbed – has been taken over during processing.
Eating whole fruit adds bulk from the chewed fruit, edible peel, and soluble fiber.
Eating whole fruit contributes to delaying gastric emptying compared to purees, which has a beneficial effect on the rate of sugar absorption, insulin release, and blood sugar regulation throughout the day.
My advice is to eat the whole fruit for a slower and more stable release of energy and sugars, and also to benefit from the fiber, vitamins and minerals.
The reason why apples are also great in these snacks is that they contain more than half the daily recommended amount of sugar at 10.4 g per 20 g Dino.
6. LIDL Mango Pure Fruit Wind-Ups, £1.79
Lidl catches my attention because it’s good to only see three ingredients in an ingredients list. However, this is only puree.
What’s wrong with eating a piece of fruit? When we embellish real food like this for children, we create many problems for the rest of their lives.
We must return to whole foods – real foods – and children are an important group of society as we seek to improve the health of our nation.
Let’s teach them where real food comes from. how it looks, smells, tastes and where it grows. IT certainly doesn’t come in one package.
At 2.2g of fiber, this is a (not exactly a close) second-place finisher, but with 41 percent sugar per puff and virtually the same protein and fat content, this snack selection is still well below the mark we’d like to feed our children (and ourselves).
A pear would have 6g of fiber and only 9.5g of sugar per medium (180g) pear.
The sugars in whole fruit, when consumed in the presence of fiber, affect the way the body uses and responds to them – ie fewer spikes in blood sugar and the cravings for more food that soon follow.
7. BEAR Yo-Yos, £2.85
Bear YoYos contain 65.8 percent apple, 32.9 percent pear, 1 percent strawberry and 0.3 percent black carrot extract.
This also includes dried fruits and purees that are processed into snacks.
It contains just 2g of fiber – that’s half that of a medium-sized apple and a third of what’s in a pear.
In addition, 8.4g of sugar in a 20g serving equates to 42 percent.
It may be naturally occurring sugars — a bit of an issue for getting away with high-sugar products — but naturally or not, the body gets sugars the same way.
This product is deficient in fiber, no fat and hardly any protein, so it is not the best for a child’s daily diet.
8. KIDDYLICIOUS Fruity Drops, £2.65
It’s understandable when you read the words “95 percent fruit” and think this is a great option.
There is nothing among the listed ingredients that makes me shudder.
But what scares me is the fact that 62.5 percent of this item is sugar (10g in a 16g bag).
With 0.3 g protein, 0.2 g fat and 1.2 g fiber, this sugar rush cannot be slowed down.
The child will probably soon be hungry for more.