When counseling parents on the importance of fruits and vegetables in the diet, I’ll often tell kids that they can eat all of “Mother Nature’s Candy” they want.  After reading the September 17th post (“Taste Buds: Lunch And Snacks”), a mother smartly asks why fruits, which are loaded with the sugar fructose, get a free pass:

I feel confused about fruits and vegetables on the “MyPlate” model.  Nutritionists say “more vegetables less fruit.”  When you start to really look at the nutritive values of vegetables compared to fruits, fruits seems like they should be a replacement for a piece of candy and NOT part of a meal.  Can you clear this up for me?  Sometimes a little knowledge is not power but just plain confusion.

 

Registered dietician Joan Avolio responds:

MyPlate was introduced by the USDA in 2011 as a reminder for healthy eating.  The Vegetable section is slightly larger than the Fruits since vegetables generally contain vitamins and minerals with less calories than fruits.  Fruits contain a natural sugar called fructose that gives them their sweetness.  Even though fructose is a natural sugar, it is still sugar and should be consumed in moderation.  As a dietitian, I would recommend fruit over candy because it has vitamins and minerals built right in, and candy usually is a source of empty calories — meaning there is little nutritional value other than the calories.  But also as a dietitian, I would say occasionally make room for a bit of candy since it tastes pretty good, and if we try to restrict kids too much they may go overboard on the candy when they get the opportunity to have some.

So the bottom line is this: Eat a little candy, but not too much; eat more fruit than candy, but not too much; go ahead and eat lots of vegetables!!!

 

Here is something else to think about: An medium-sized apple contains 100 calories, 19 grams of natural sugar (fructose), 18% of daily dietary fiber, zero grams of fat, and zero mg of sodium.  A Snicker’s Bar (according to Mars, Inc.) contains 250 calories, 27 grams of processed sugar, 4% of daily dietary fiber, 12 grams of fat (18% of daily fat), and 120 mg of sodium.

The only positive nutritional thing you can say about a Snicker’s Bar is that it is a low-sodium snack, providing only 5% of daily sodium.  But let’s not pile on Snickers Bars;  here’s the rest of the list.

You would have to eat two-and-a-half apples to match the calories in a candy bar.  Most people would feel satisfied after eating only one apple because a majority of the fruit is fiber and water.  Candy bars are empty calories indeed!

Here are the ingredients in a Snicker’s Bar:

Ingredients Declaration:
MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR, COCOA BUTTER, CHOCOLATE, SKIM MILK, LACTOSE, MILKFAT, SOY LECITHIN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR), PEANUTS, CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, PALM OIL, SKIM MILK, LACTOSE, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, SALT, EGG WHITES, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR.

 

The ingredients in an apple?  Apple!

Do you know where “artificial flavor” comes from, or how you process corn to get corn syrup, or where you process soybeans to get soy lecithin and partially hydrogenated soybean oil?  These sound like ingredients that belong in a chemistry lab rather than in our food!  At least we know where apples comes from.