Fruit Snack Attack

@momsrising hosts a #FoodFri Twitter chat each Friday at 1PM. I've recapped below, embedded some select tweets, and added my own tidbits here and there.

Q1: What are fruit snacks?

Gushers, Fruit by the Foot, Welch's Fruit Snacks come to mind from my days of eating fruit snacks, I'm sure many of you remember these. I don't have any kids, but if I did, I don't think I'd let them eat them. I want fruit snacks to mean raw fruit cut up in chunks to my future (hopefully) kids.

Q2: Are fruit snacks healthy?

No. They're full of sugar, preservatives, artificial dyes, and GMO derived ingredients. If it's not real fruit, fresh, dried, or 100% fruit juice with no added sugar, it's not healthy.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic and it's largely due to lack of awareness from parents. 

Luckily, there is an alternative, if you want your kids to eat healthy real fruit type snacks. You can make them at home. It's pretty simple too. Here's a recipe from @wellnessmama

Q3: What are some concerns about marketing and labeling of fruit snacks?

Marketing of these products can appeal to both kids and adults. For the kids, commercials and ads make eating these snacks "fun," if you remember the classic fruit head Gushers commercials. For a younger generation of parents they appeal to the drama lovers with a semi-well-written but incredibly cheesy rap song. 

It's still marketing though, so they're going to try and be as creative as possible to get you to buy a product with no regard for the fact that the advertising can be misleading.

Q4: Should parents be concerned about artificial dyes in fruit snacks?

Welch's Fruit Snack Ingredients, from their website

Welch's Fruit Snack Ingredients, from their website

My response was that parents should be concerned about feeding kids these snacks for more reasons than the fact they contain artificial dyes. Corn syrup and modified corn starch are two of the major ingredients, both of which come from genetically modified (GM) corn. If it doesn't say it's not genetically modified, you can assume it is. GM corn is genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides and herbicides that prevent insects from eating the corn and other plants (weeds) from overtaking the field. The problem is that these are poisons that are absorbed by the corn itself and then later ingested by us and our kids. Scary stuff, huh? 

The dyes are another major issue. Seven dyes still remain on the U.S. FDA "safe to use" list, but there are many groups still urging the FDA to ban all artificial dyes for reasons ranging from increased chance for hyperactivity in kids to causing cancer.

Q5: Why is it important for kids to eat real fruits and vegetables?

Q6: What are some convenient and healthy alternatives to fruit snacks?

Real fruit!! Cut it up, put it in the freezer, take out and eat later! 

Q7: What can parents do if fruit snacks and unhealthy foods are served at school and sporting events?

Speak out! You can join the PTA or a wellness committee to communicate and spread awareness about choosing healthy options. 

There are also some initiatives to improve the quality of school lunches. In Pennsylvania, a few farm to school programs have sprung up to help get locally grown food to schools. 

Q8: How can parents share their concern about fruit snacks with food companies?

Starve the market. Stop buying these unhealthy products and spread awareness about the deception their marketing tactics convey. 

Speak out. Use social media to share your views directly with the companies making these products. 

Making healthy snack choices for your kids, spreading awareness, and leading by example are Small Acts that are easy and inexpensive. It can actually save costs in the long run by reducing the chances that the child will suffer from chronic disease that will require hospital treatment or medication in the future.