Welch's Fruit Snacks: Too Good to be Food?

Nutritionist Keri Glassman investigates


Let’s face it—it can be a battle to get your kids to eat their fruit sometimes. Welch’s tries to give your kids their “fruit” with a fruity flavor chewable snack they might actually eat. Welch’s Fruit Snacks provide 100% of your daily needs for Vitamin C and 25% of both vitamins A and E. They are fat-free, gluten-free, with no preservatives, and hey, it’s got ‘fruit’ right in the name! Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? But are these vitamin-filled candy-tasting snacks Too Good to be Food?

What’s in it: Juice from concentrates (grape, pear, peach, and pineapple), Corn syrup, Sugar, Modified corn starch, Fruit purees (strawberry, orange, raspberry, and grape), Gelatin, Citric acid, Lactic acid, Natural and artificial flavors, Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), Alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), Vitamin A palmitate, Sodium citrate, Coconut oil, Carnauba wax, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1

Juice from concentrates (grape, pear, peach, and pineapple) - Juice that is made through a process by which all the excess water has been removed from the original juice, resulting in a thicker and sweeter liquid. The concentrated juice is then compressed and frozen. While a small amount of nutrients may be lost through processing, the ultimate end-product is quite similar nutrient-wise to the original fruit juice since only water is removed. However, this means there is more sugar since it is concentrated!

Corn syrup - Heavy-duty processed sweetener made from both glucose and fructose, making it a super-sweet food additive. Thumbs down b-i-g time.

Sugar - Well that's pretty self-explanatory. Sugar is sugar is sugar. Moderation is key and we all know we have to watch the amount of sugar that we eat. Sugar is a leading cause of cavities and unwanted weight gain. Did you know that just one tablespoon of sugar will cost you close to 50 calories? Be mindful. And most important, fruit itself is loaded with natural sugar.  You wouldn’t want to pour sugar on your apple would you?

Modified corn starch - Modified corn starch is a chemically altered version of corn starch that dissolves quickly and can be used as a stabilizer, thickener, or emulsifier. While not necessarily harmful, it adds no nutritional value to food.  However, those with gluten allergies should stay away from this ingredient, unless the food is labeled “gluten free.”

Fruit purees (strawberry, orange, raspberry, and grape) - Fruit purees add sweetness and flavor. Fruit purees that include the whole fruit and peel can also provide soluble and insoluble fiber, which are critical for digestion and for stabilizing blood sugar. However, Welch’s Fruit Snacks contain almost zero fiber dietary fiber, which means these fruit “purees” are probably closer to fruit juices than to pureed whole fruits.

Gelatin - Gelatin is an animal protein commonly made from pigskins, cattle bones, and cattle hides. It is used as a gelling agent, thickener, and emulsifier, and is commonly found in candies and some dairy products.

Citric acid - A natural acid found in fruits like lemons, limes and oranges, it is used as a preservative and to add acidity to foods. 

Lactic acid - A common additive that acts as a flavoring agent or preservative. Lactic Acid is formed by natural fermentation in products such as cheese, yogurt, soy sauce and pickled vegetables.

NATURAL FLAVOR – A flavoring produced in laboratories to give more flavor to processed foods that have lost their natural flavor due to the process of freezing, dehydrating, and canning. Be wary when you see this.  These are made from a blend of natural chemicals to produce desired flavors, but which ones? Who knows!

ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR – Artificial flavors are not derived from any natural source. In other words, these taste compounds are chemical cocktails mixed to mimic real food flavors. Avoid artificial flavors whenever possible!

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) - The science-y term for Vit C, Ascorbic Acid acts as a preservative, while boosting the Vitamin C content, leaving a tart flavor.

Alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin E) - Just a fancy name for vitamin E. As a food additive, it prevents oils from going rancid.

Vitamin A palmitate - Naturally found in eggs, milk, liver, and fish, this synthetic product is combined with methyl palpitate to create a stable form of vitamin A.

Sodium citrate - This is a food additive that is used as an emulsifier, which just means it keeps fat and water from separating. It also adds some tart flavor.

Coconut oil - This saturated fatty oil contains medium-chain triglycerides that are more easily metabolized in the body than long-chain fatty acids.  Simply put, it is a fat with many health benefits when consumed using portion control.

Carnauba wax - This is a natural polymer that is made from the Carnauba palm trees of Brazil. It is typically added to powdered foods to prevent clumping and is found in many baked goods, as well as some cosmetics.

Red 40 - The most commonly used food dye. Mainly used in sodas, candies, pastries, and even pet food, all of which I don't recommend eating!  I recommend to steer clear of all food dyes. Natural pigments found in foods like beets or raspberries are the place I like to get my red food from!

Yellow 5 - Avoid this food dye! While it is widely used (only second after Red 40), it can cause allergy-like reactions in many people, and may even cause hyperactivity in some children. It can even be contaminated with carcinogens such as benzidine.

Blue 1 - A food dye that may cause occasional allergic reactions in some people. Studies on its effect are limited; it needs to be tested more. It is a dye, no need to say more!

The Bottom Line

The first ingredients in Welch’s Fruit Snacks (Mixed Fruit flavor) are juices from concentrates, which indicates that these are present in the highest levels out of the rest of the ingredients.  Fruit purees of strawberry, grape, orange, and raspberry also rank quite high on the ingredient list, indicating that real fruit is actually used. Don’t get too excited...The product also contains a laundry list of ingredients (re-read above if you missed!) including sweeteners and dyes. This snack kinda makes me think of a slice of apple sprinkled with sugar, drizzled with dyes and eaten with a multi vitamin on the side. Not exactly the after school snack I want my (OR your!) kids eating! Nothing beats a simple piece of fruit. If you are having trouble getting your kids to eat fruit, try serving kebab style, freezing it, mashing it and topping a nut butter with it on a cracker or  throwing it into a smoothie.

Mixed Fruit 2.25 oz Pack
Serving size: 40 grams
Calories: 130
Total Fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Sodium: 15 mg
Total carbohydrate: 31 grams
Dietary Fiber: 0
Sugars: 18 grams
Protein: 1 gram

 


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