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What are they feeding our children?

Translating Good Nutrition Into Good Eating What Are They Feeding Our Children?

When Columbus discovered America, did his mom say, put it back? Well these are new Jell-O pudding snacks...and fasten that seatbelt, Mom, it's 70 percent skim milk. What do you say we pick up 12 or 13?

What mom wouldn't be taken in by the fast-talking youngster in this clever TV ad for Jell-O pudding snacks? Buying a food that's 70 percent skim milk seems like a victory, not a concession.

In fact, this claim is as deceptive as they come. To make a Jell-O Pudding Snack, you'd start with one-third cup of skim milk, add 6 teaspoons of sugar, and top it off with 1 1/3 teaspoons of coconut and palm kernel oils--the most saturated fats available.

In fact, these fats are so saturated that just one pudding cup provides up to 30 percent of the saturated fat a 4-to-6 year-old (and up to 20 percent of the saturated fat a 7-to-10 year-old) should eat in a day. The children would be better off eating pudding made from whole milk.

Jell-O Pudding Snacks are just one of many new products being sold to kids, with parents in mind. Adults are health-conscious, so ads and labels are filled with words like "skim milk," "real fruit," and "vitamin-enriched." What kids usually end up getting is the same old sugar, fat, and salt.

MICRO MEALS Kid's Kitchen, Kids Cupboard, MicroMagic Meal, My Own Meals. This growing category of shelf-stable microwaveable meals for kids is worth at least $300 million a year, according to Advertising Age magazine. Quaker's Kids Cupboard is still in development, but here's how the others stack up: ] Simplot's MicroMagic Meals are fast foods you can "cook" at home. Just what every parent wants.

Now that your kids can eat fast foods more often, why should they ever bother with anything else?

The MicroMagic Meal consists of a cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake. Eleven teaspoons of fat supply 40 percent of the meal's 1,050 calories.

What's worse, we estimate that MicroMagic contains about three-fourths of the saturated fat a 7-to-10 year old should eat in a day. ] Hormel Kid's Kitchen features some old favorites (spaghetti, ravioli) plus a few new ones (chicken chow mein, macaroni and chicken). Being mostly pasta, they are low in fat. Instead, salt is the problem.

The line averages about 650 milligrams of sodium. (The Macaroni and Cheese has 1,000 mg!) That's well into the range (600 to 1800 mg.) a 7-to-10 year old should get in an entire day. Since the dishes average only 140 calories each, by the end of an average kid's 2,400-calorie day it would be pretty tough not to exceed the sodium limit. ] My Own Meals are only slightly lower in sodium, but they've got some refreshing ingredients: brown rice in "My Kind of Chicken"; raisins in "My Meatballs & Shells"; lentils in "My Favorite Pasta."

On the downside, the manufacturer, My Own Meals, Inc., of Deerfield, Illinois, adds cream and butter, which provides extra saturated fat that kids age two and over don't need.

MADE WITH REAL SUGAR Gummi Bears are chewy, stick-to-the-teeth little bears made of sugar, artificial colors, and flavors. They're candy.

Fruit Corners' Berry Bears and Shark Bites and Sunkist's Fun Fruits (Spooky Fruits, Space Shapes, and Animals) are also candy. But many people don't know it. That's because the labels say "made with real fruit."

Fruit snacks contain a little fruit or juice. But not enough to supply even two percent of the USRDA for any vitamin and mineral. The only exception is Fruit Wrinkles, which have added vitamin C.

Be careful when you read this and other labels. Fruit or fruit juice often appears before sugar, but sugar still contributes more calories to the food.

For example, fruit is the "first" ingredient in Sunkist Fun Fruits, which Lipton says are 30 percent sugar by weight. But that works out to only 1 1/2 grapes or 1/17th of an orange in a whole pouch of candy.

The fruit weighs a lot because it's full of water, but it supplies only about 4 percent of the food's calories. Added sugar supplies 64 percent. The rest is modified food starch and oil.

FRUIT CUPS These products aren't "made with real fruit." They are real fruit. That's something. But most are less-than-perfect: ] Some of Del Monte's Fruit Cups are packed in heavy syrup, or in a "gel" made of sugar, orange juice, gums, and artificial colors. Only the pineapple is canned in juice. ] Mott's little tubs of plain applesauce come with or without added sugar. The fruit packs (applesauce plus strawberries, cherries, pineapples, or peaches) all have sugar, and the strawberry also has artificial colors.

(UN)HEALTH FOODS Health food stores contributed granola and yogurt to the American mainstream. But they're not responsible for what's happened to these foods. ] Granola bars have metamorphosed into candy. The newest line, M&M/Mars' Kudos, has more chocolate than granola. On the average, granola bars hold a slight nutritional edge over chocolate bars (because of the oats), but the lines are blurring. And many of the "new" granola bars' candy ingredients (chocolate, marshmallow, caramel) add fat and sugar, replacing the dwindling complex carbohydrates in the oats. ] Del Monte's Fruit Snacks feature Strawberry Yogurt or just Yogurt Raisins. Unfortunately, that "yogurt coating" is really a sugar-and-partially-hydrogenated-coconut-cottonseed-palm-palm kernel-or-soybean-oil coating. It turns fat-free raisins into a snack that gets nearly 40 percent of its calories from fat.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:snack foods
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Jan 1, 1989
Previous Article:Calories don't count ... equally.
Next Article:Fish oil: fad or find?

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