Why Fruit Snacks Aren’t a Healthy Snack by Sally

This post is by Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of The Snacktivist’s Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

Why Fruit Snacks Aren't a Healthy Snack on 100 Days of Real Food

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If there were one “kid food” I wish would go away, it would be fruit snacks.

Packets of fruit snacks seem to be everywhere, from birthday party goody bags to pee-wee soccer sidelines. But here’s the thing. They are neither fruit nor a healthy snack. Yet they’re marketed that way by some manufacturers and perceived that way by many parents. That drives me nuts.

What’s in Packaged Fruit Snacks?

Let’s look at the ingredient list for a leading brand of fruit snacks:

FRUIT SNACK INGREDIENTS: Corn syrup, Sugar, Apple Puree Concentrate, Water, Modified Corn StarchGelatin, Contains 2% or less of Citric Acid, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Natural and Artificial FlavorsYellow 5, Red 40, Sodium Citrate, Blue 1.

Here’s the ingredient list on a package of gummy bears:

GUMMY BEAR INGREDIENTS: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Gelatin, Dextrose, Citric Acid, Corn StarchArtificial and Natural Flavors, Fractionated Coconut Oil, Carnauba Wax, Beeswax Coating, Artificial Colors Yellow 5, Red 40Blue 1.

Both contain multiple kinds of added sugar, have artificial flavors and preservatives, and are colored with synthetic dyes. Crunching the numbers on the label, they actually have almost the exact same amount of sugar, gram per gram.

Why Fruit Snacks Aren't a Healthy Snack on 100 Days of Real Food

What about “Natural” Fruit Snacks?

What about brands that use more natural ingredients? Yes, you lose the fake flavorings and synthetic dyes (which is a good thing) but added sugars are still the top ingredients. And they are still more like candy than fruit (don’t be fooled by healthy-sounding fruit juice concentrate, which is basically just another source of added sugar).

The front of the package may also tout the amount of vitamin C in fruit snacks, but I’m not impressed. Vitamin C is actually not very hard to get, especially if your child eats any fruits or vegetables. Kids ages 4-8 only need 25 milligrams of vitamin C per day. That’s how much they get in just three medium strawberries.

I don’t mind if my kids have an occasional package of fruit snacks at a party, but I make sure they understand what fruit snacks are – a sweet treat, just like cookies or candy.

Do Something About It

If your child is getting fruit snacks and other unhealthy items in sports, school, camp, or other places, and you want to do something about it, check out my e-book The Snacktivist’s Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home, a toolkit for any parent who wants to make positive change to the snack culture. It includes email templates you can customize and send to coaches and teachers, talking points to use in discussions, and more than a dozen printable resources. Learn more here.

Also, you can consider making your own homemade fruit snacks as well. We like this recipe from Wellness Mama and it’s easier to make than you’d think!

How do you feel about fruit snacks? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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14 thoughts on “Why Fruit Snacks Aren’t a Healthy Snack by Sally”

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  1. Yes, they are highly processed yet very convenient, as with any pre-packaged food. I do not think they should be eliminated completely from the pantry but definitely saved as a treat. However, I do love the Black Forest brand! I try not to eat them often because they do affect the way my bowels function

  2. Sigrid Lindholm

    Instead of fruit snacks, I encourage my kids to eat dried fruit. Same texture, maybe a little less sugar.

  3. I think sugary snacks are a poor choice in general, when they have been processed away from their natural form. A whole banana or apple would be fine, because the fibre helps your body process the sugar over a longer period of time. If you blended them into a fruit bar, it’s a dangerous sugar hit. Sad that so many companies are marketing ‘healthy’ snacks that are not.

  4. Thank you for this article. The amount of sugar our children are getting each day in ‘supposed’ healthy snacks is insidious. We are setting them up for sugar addiction and all the health issues that go along with that.

  5. I didn’t realize people served fruit snacks to kids under the assumption they were healthy. I thought it was merely a convience food. When I want to give my kids a fruit treat, I stick to no sugar added dried fruit, or homemade Larabars. Dried fruit still has a lot of sugar, but at least it is naturally occurring, so once in a while is ok in my book. Tip, I make ahead larabars for my freezer.

  6. I’m really tired of this being a thing, but it’s sad how our food industry has fooled the public into knowing almost nothing about what nutrition, food, and healthy actually mean. I’m glad for sites like this, but I wonder how many everyday folks visit such sites…

  7. There’s a funny scene in Parks and Rec in which a character refers to raisins as “nature’s candy.” It’s funny to me that we have a product like fruit snacks when dried fruit is already fruity, chewy, and snacky. My kids like dried apricots the best.

  8. It seems like dehydrated fruit leather is the better option. I know that concentrates the sugars in the fruit, but at least it’s natural. I know it’s not hard to make either. At least we could call those actual fruit snacks. :-)

  9. Thank you! This drives me crazy too! How about just eating real fruit! My kids love most fruit!

    I have been wanting to try the recipe from Wellness Mama for a long time.

  10. When my daughter was a toddler and I was young and dumb, I gave her “fruit” snacks. Her dentist told me to stop immediately. What I didn’t know was that they could get wedged in between the molars. All if that sugar causes cavities, and little teeth aren’t always the easiest to brush. She ended up with several cavities at the ripe old age of 3, and I felt like a horrible parent. Needless to say, none of my kids have had fruit snacks since.