It’s summer time and we all want to give our kids (and ourselves) a cool treat, but so many of the store-bought options are FULL of sugar and other chemical ingredients. You may even think that fruit bars are a “safe” and healthy option, but are they? Let’s break down the labels on some popular options:
These “freezies” are the common summer grab for many people. We definitely had these in our freezer growing up. Unfortunately, the ingredient list reads like a chemistry lab:
The only “healthy” ingredient in here is water. Wait, what? It has fruit juice though! Sorry, friend. Anything sweetened with concentrated fruit juice should be thought of as “concentrated fructose”, which as I explained HERE and below, is not beneficial to anyone, especially growing kids.
Outshine- No Sugar Added Fruit Bars
Who doesn’t love a good fruit bar? And it says “No sugar added” so surely they must be a healthy option, right? Nope. I know. I was crushed to learn this too. No sugar added means just that. You won’t find the word “sugar” in the ingredient list. That doesn’t mean “no sweetener” added. Check out all the added sweeteners in these fruit bars (highlighted in yellow):
Those cold treats aren’t alone in their ingredients. Many foods and beverages are sweetened with concentrated fruit juice as a way to avoid using sugar. Food manufacturers know we look for the word “sugar” on labels but concentrated fruit juice sounds so much safer!
What is Fructose and is it bad?
Fructose is the form of sugar that is commonly found in honey, fruits, and vegetables. When you add a fructose molecule to a glucose molecule, you get sucrose. When sucrose is extracted and processed you get sugar. Every cell in the body can process glucose, but only the liver cells can break down fructose. When there is a diet of foods/drinks containing high amounts of fructose (high fructose corn syrup, concentrated fruit juices, etc) and/or high amounts of sugar (a fructose and glucose molecule put together), the liver has to get to work to break it all down. The break down of fructose turns into many things including: triglycerides, free radicals (which are bad), and uric acid.
High amounts of fructose from juice or high fructose corn syrup are slowly being linked to the obesity epidemic, insulin resistance, and liver conditions such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, even in kids as young as 5!
Does that mean we should never eat fruit?!
The good news is, the fructose in whole fruits (not juice) is actually pretty low compared to High Fructose Corn Syrup. The whole fruit contains other nutrients, a key one being fiber, that slows the absorption and aids in the processing of the fructose. Plus, the body has a wonderful way of naturally regulating your fruit intake. Just ask any mom of a toddler who ate too many mandarin oranges while on vacation….it was messy💩. Juice doesn’t have fiber so the fructose hits the system quickly and heads straight to the liver.
So what should we do if we want a cool, refreshing treat?
Make it yourself! It’s surprisingly easy to make your own fruit bars and you can use the over-ripe fruit that’s about to go bad! By using the whole fruit, you include the fiber and other supportive nutrients to help balance out the fructose. Try out these recipes below:
Homemade Frozen Fruit Bars
- 2 cups of your favorite cut up fruit (try peaches, strawberries, pineapple, mango, or melons) or blend a few fruits together! The juicier the better because that’s what will freeze.
- Put the fruit in a blender or food processor and blend until it turns into a liquid. If you like your bars with whole fruit chunks then stop blending sooner or add fruit solids into the molds.
- Pour or spoon the puree into silicon popsicle molds or paper cups and add the sticks.
- Freeze until solid (1-3 hours). Pop out of molds or tear away cups and enjoy!
- Makes about 4-6 pops depending on your molds.
- 1 ripe banana
- 1/3 cup almond milk
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until it turns into a liquid.
- Pour or spoon the blend into silicon popsicle molds or paper cups and add the sticks.
- Freeze until solid or enjoy as a slushy treat!
- Makes 3-6 pops depending on your molds.
Occasionally letting your child have the store bought treats mentioned above is OK. There’s no guilt or shame involved. In fact, we had those Outshine bars in our freezer last month. What you (or your kids) have on a regular basis is what matters most so start checking your usual foods and drinks for hidden sugars in order to make the best choices for your family. Not sure what you’re looking for? I’ve got you! Download my Sneaky Sugar list of over 100 names for sweeteners that are found on a label.
If you are interested in learning more about the impact sugar has on our bodies, come to Ember Modern Medicine in Greenville on June 30th at 6:30pm. I will be talking all about sugar’s impact and what we can do about it! This event is FREE but registration is required. Sign up HERE and I’ll see you there!