Are Fruit Snacks Healthy?

So I’ll get back to recipes here shortly, but we’ve had a few questions that came in during the Health Expo which I thought would be well served by answering them here.

One of the top questions we got was regarding fruit snacks, specifically ‘are fruit snacks healthy?’

This is a question which has a lot of layers to it.  Fruit snacks come in a lot of forms from gummy snacks to fruit slurries and gels.  When looking for a healthy fruit snack you want to take a look at the list of ingredients and see where the fruit is.  In many gummy fruit snacks there isn’t any fruit.  They often contain fruit flavoring or ‘natural flavors’, but no actual fruit.  In gels and slurries you want fruit to be as high on the list as possible and the closer to whole fruit you can get the better.  For example apple sauce is apples with the peel and core removed before processing, which does remove some of the fiber and vitamins of the whole fruit.  Raspberry fruit snacks with seeds still in the snack are more healthy than those with the seeds removed as these seeds are the best source of antioxidants in the berry.

Once you determine the fruit source, the next thing to look for is where sugar comes up on the ingredient list.  Some snacks are sugar sweetened, some sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, some with honey and other natural sweeteners like stevia, and others with artificial non nutritive sweeteners.  If sugar comes first you’re looking at a candy snack more than a fruit snack and the health value is generally pretty low.  In my house we tend to avoid the snacks flavored with high fructose corn syrup and stevia is our favorite non caloric sweetener.

Past the fruit and sweetener content the next stop on the ‘are fruit snacks healthy’ comes down to the nutrition label where you want to check for fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Higher fiber snacks tend to be better for the digestive system, particularly prebiotic fibers which help the stomach prepare for digestion, and snacks with higher vitamin and mineral counts are generally more healthy as well.

So the long and short of it is that fruit snacks are not always healthy but they can be.  It comes down to being a good label reader and knowing exactly what is going into your snack so you know what you’re getting out of it!

Jana

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