I'm a nutritionist – here's 8 'healthy' snacks to BAN from your child's lunch box | The SunJune 18, 2023
OUR busy lifestyles often mean time-strapped parents seek out what they believe to be healthy snacks for their kids.
But the truth behind the popular food items could not be more different warns one nutritionist.
Natalie Burrows runs Integralwellness.co.uk and is warning parents of the danger in believing popular lunchbox fruit snacks provide their children with health benefits.
Natalie says: “The modern-day world is busy, add kids into the mix and time demands lead parents to seek out what they believe to be ‘healthy’ convenience foods, and this includes the lunchbox snacks.
“But picking up an item of whole fruit over these snack bars is just as easy and more nourishing.
“These fruit bars lack fibre and have a high sugar content which will see kids wanting another snack very soon.
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“Not because they are hungry, but because they are intuitively trying to stabilise their blood sugar rollercoaster.
“As you read the nutritional information of each product there is a common theme – high sugar, low fibre, no fats and no protein.”
Natalie also points out they are more expensive than a bag of apples, which can cost less than £1.
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Fruit snacks, like these, contribute to the metabolic mess we find ourselves in.
Here Natalie decodes the nutritional information on a range of popular, but unhealthy, fruit snacks…
1. Tesco Strawberry Bites, £1.90
On the back of the pack it says ‘sweetened fruit pieces’. Why are fruit pieces being sweetened? Fruit is naturally sweet already.
This added ‘sweetness’ is contributing to one bag – which weighs just 25g – being a whopping 15.5g of sugar, which is 62 per cent sugar.
Fibre is vital for a healthy gut, including bowel motility, which lots of children have an issue with, as well as the immune system and weight management, but it only contains 0.2g of fibre.
Fruit can be a great source of fibre, but this product has managed to extract all the fibre and amplify the sugar content to an exorbitant level.
If we break down the ingredients, the first ingredient is ‘yoghurt flavoured coating’ which makes up 57 per cent of the ingredient list.
But if you keep reading, you’ll see the main ingredient in the ‘yoghurt’ is sugar.
After the ‘yoghurt flavoured coating’, the next ingredient is also sugar, followed by fructose syrup, which is a type of sugar.
So, the first three ingredients in this item of food are sugar and yet the first word they use on the label is ‘strawberry’.
2. The Fruit Factory strawberry, apple and orange fruit strings, £2.35
The brand name doesn’t even get a thumbs up from me – what is fruit doing in a factory? Shouldn’t it be in a field or on a farm?
Fruit juices from concentrate make up 24 per cent of these fruit strings, but in this concentrated mix, there is glucose syrup (aka sugar), sugar and sorbitol (a sugar alcohol which can be negatively impactful on the gut microbiome and contribute to diarrhoea).
There is another fruit and vegetable concentrate and some ingredients which have been touted as 'superfoods' too – curcumin (aka turmeric) and spirulina.
They are so far down on the list they are likely to be too small to provide any real benefits.
In a 20g bag, there is 7.4g of sugar, which is one of the lowest we’ve reviewed at 37 per cent.
However, the rest of the 'good' ingredients are low too, with fibre at 0.6g (most children need 15-20g a day), fat at 0.4g and protein at 1.7g.
Protein and healthy fats are fundamental to the development of children and yet throughout these snacks, you’ll see an abundance of sugar and a complete lack of proteins, fats and fibre.
3. Tesco 5 Mango & Banana Bars, £2
The ingredients list is a light one with date, dried mango (20 per cent), and dried banana (12 per cent).
We can assume that dates take up the remaining 68 per cent of the ingredients.
Sugar is over half the nutritional value of this 30g bar, at 16.1g.
Dried fruit has most of the water removed and leaves a very sugar-dense end product.
Dates are approximately 65 per cent sugar which is why they are so sweet and often used instead of white refined sugar in baking.
Between 22–51 per cent of this sugar content is fructose and eating a lot of fructose can have negative impacts on your metabolic health – type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.
It’s also a known trigger for some people who experience IBS.
The recommended sugar intake for children aged 4-6 is only 19g and this only increases slightly to 24g for 7-10-year-olds.
This is a recommended limit, not a target – but one bar of this almost smashes that limit in one hit.
This bar does win the fibre contest, however, with 3.7g of fibre per bar which is almost one-third for 2–5-year-olds, who are recommended to have 15g a day and one-quarter for 5-11 year olds who should aim for 20g.
4. Fruit Bowl’s Blackcurrant Peelers, £2.50
It is claims like those on this pack, of being ‘one of your five a day’ which makes shoppers believe they are picking up equivalents to whole fruit.
Promoting that 677g of apples, 26g blackcurrants and 17g elderberries are used to make 100g worth of this food snack, it’s surprising that only 7.5g is fibre – 677g of whole fruit apples alone would be 15g.
But this isn’t uncommon with ultra-processed foods. During the processing, nutrients are lost – fibre, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Lower in sugar than some but still packing a punch with 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 a term that means something that has been cooked, ground, pressed, blended or sieved to the consistency of a creamy paste or liquid.
This product is made of 62 per cent apple puree.
So not only is it an ultra-processed food but the job of the stomach – to break food down before absorption – has been done in the processing.
Eating whole fruit brings additional bulk from the chewed fruit, edible skins and soluble fibre.
Eating whole fruit contributes to a delay in gastric emptying compared to purees, which is more beneficial for the rate of sugar absorption, insulin release and blood sugar regulation throughout the day.
My advice is to eat the whole fruit to get a slower, more stable release of energy and sugar and benefit from the fibre, vitamins and minerals too.
The reason apples win over these snacks too is these contain over half the daily recommended amount of sugar at 10.4g per 20g Dino.
6. LIDL Mango Pure Fruit Wind-Ups, £1.79
Lidl gets my attention because it’s good to see just three ingredients in an ingredients list. However, these are just puree too.
What’s wrong with eating a piece of fruit? If we dress real food up like this for children, we create a lot of issues for the rest of their lives.
We need to get back to whole food – real food – and children are an important group of society as we look to turn the health of our nation around.
Let’s teach them where real food comes from; how it looks, smells, tastes and where it grows. IT certainly isn’t in a packet.
2.2g of fibre makes this a (not very close) runner-up, but with 41 per cent sugar content per wind-up and practically flat-lining with proteins and fats, this snack choice still falls well below the mark of what we want to be feeding our children (and ourselves).
One pear would have 6g of fibre and only 9.5g of sugar per medium (180g) pear.
The sugar in whole fruit, when delivered in the presence of fibre, makes a difference to how the body uses and responds – aka less of that blood sugar spike and craving for more food soon after.
7. BEAR YoYos, £2.85
Bear YoYos contain 65.8 per cent apples, 32.9 per cent pears, 1 per cent strawberry and 0.3 per cent black carrot extract.
This is also dried fruit and purees processed into something to serve as a snack.
There is only 2g of fibre – which is half that of a medium-sized apple and one-third of what is found in a pear.
Additionally, 8.4g of sugar in a 20g portion is 42 per cent.
It may be naturally occurring sugars – a bit of a theme for getting away with high sugar products – but natural or not, the body receives sugar in the same way.
This product has a lack of fibre as well as zero fat and barely any protein, so not the best thing to include in a child’s daily diet.
8. KIDDYLICIOUS Fruity Drops, £2.65
It’s understandable if you read the words ‘95 per cent fruit’ and think this is a great option.
Among the ingredients listed, there isn’t anything that makes me cringe.
But what does make me cringe is that 62.5 per cent of this item is sugar (10g in a 16g bag).
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With 0.3g protein, 0.2g fat and 1.2g fibre, there is no slowing this sugar rush down.
The child will likely be hungry for more in no time at all.
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