A few weeks ago, I was at a three year old’s birthday party and one of the mom’s began talking about her visit to the dentist with her 3yr old and how upset she was that the dentist had found two cavities. She stressed how obsessive they were about brushing her teeth, often three times a day, even flossing, and that the culprit was Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. She went on to say that you need to buy a “stronger” toothpaste, like Crest or Colgate, that Tom’s just didn’t work. My kids use Tom’s (with flouride) and they have great teeth, so I suspected it had something to do with the toddler’s diet. Another parent probed a bit and asked if she eats lots of sweets — the mom said “No, she doesn’t even like fruit, the only sweet I give her are a few pouches of those healthy gummy fruit snacks everyday”. BINGO! Gummy fruit + tooth enamel = trouble. I am not anti Gummy Fruit Snacks, they are certainly better than a Jolly Rancher (though I still love that artificial watermelon flavor, yum), but they are definitely not a replacement for fruit or any other nutritious food. The names are misleading: “Organic Fruit Snacks” or “100% Real Fruit Snacks”; and those companies have very clever marketing tactics such as “contains same amount of vitamin C and 5 oranges” or “made from a 1,000,000 apples” etc. And as much as kids would love to believe that they can eat a pack of gummy fruit and skip the five oranges, we, as parents, should not be endorsing that.
A recent Fooducate post makes an excellent point, “Want to give your kids candy? I’m fine with that, give them candy. Don’t give your kids candy and tell them that it’s healthy. Or that’s it’s fruit”. I couldn’t agree more. Sweet treats are fine in moderation. We should not expect our kids to live on lentils and kale alone, but don’t use anything as a replacement for fruit or any other whole food. If they hate real fruit, try dried fruit, fruit purees mixed with yogurt or oatmeal, frozen fruit in a smoothie, freeze pureed fruit in ice pop mold. Kids need the fiber and phytonutrients from fruit. Gummy/Fake fruit snacks usually have less than half a gram of fiber (versus several grams for a serving of fruit) and no phytonutrients. The concentrated fruit juice congealed into a jelly like candy is hardly enough to tick the Five A Day box. I think its very important that kids to learn to make good choices about food, and we (parents) need to keep reminding them of those good choices; and maybe the 150th time you present them with an apple with peanut butter for a snack, they will actually say yes!