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"Where's the Fruit" - Day Three Childhood Obesity Conference

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"Over half of the most aggressively advertised children’s foods that prominently feature fruit on their packaging contain no fruit at all", this according to Prevention Institute's The Strategic Alliance study "Where's the Fruit?" released Friday on Day 3 of the California Childhood Obesity Conference.

The authors looked at 37 of the most heavily advertised children’s foods that made references to fruit on their packaging; packaging that included either words and/or pictures of fruit. Here's what they found:

• 51 percent of the products contained no fruit
• 16 percent of the products contained minimal amounts of fruit in the form of 2-10 percent fruit juice
• 6 percent of the products contained 100 percent fruit juice (fruit juice does not contain the equivalent fiber, vitamins, and minerals of whole fruit)
• 27 percent of the products contained fruit or fruit from concentrate

You know what they're talking about, you see the labels and so do your kids. The Berry Berry Kix, Fruit Loops, Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries, Trix Strawberry Kiwi Yogurt, Dannon Danimals, Fruity Cheerios, Nestle Strawberry Nesquick, you get the picture. They're not full of fruit! They're full of sugar!

Most of the products reviewed contained at least two kinds of added sugars, primarily high fructose corn syrup and sugar itself. In an attempt to market these foods as "healthy", manufacturers load them up with vitamins and minerals giving parents a false sense of security. And that's what's so shameful about this kind of marketing, these are practically candy multivitamins. Parents struggle to choose healthy foods for their kids, and these kinds of products can totally mislead them, not too mention our kids who are much more vulnerable to advertising.

We already have an epidemic of childhood obesity and these products aren't helping. Dr. David Lustig, who also spoke on Day 3 of the conference, blames part of the epidemic on the excessive amounts of fructose we're consuming in products like these (not to mention all the sugary filled beverages we drink). According to Lustig, when fructose overwhelms our system, particularly the liver, it's converted to fat products in the body. Fructose from whole fruit is safe because it's not concentrated like it is in these foods we've been talking about. (Fruit juice however, is very concentrated and lacks fiber to help moderate all that fructose, keep it on the low side).

SO what do the authors suggest? They call on the food industry to stop using these deceitful marketing techniques. More specifically:

• Provide healthy food and drinks as the standard in all children’s meals and on children’s menus.
• Competitively price healthy foods so they are as affordable, if not more affordable, than less healthful options.
• Make healthy foods widely available in all children’s environments (preschool, schools and after school programs), workplaces, and all neighborhoods.
• Eliminate all marketing and advertising of unhealthy food and beverage products to children and youth.
• Support (and do not oppose) policies designed to bring healthier foods and beverages to schools, workplaces, healthcare settings, and neighborhoods.

And what can you do? Read those labels carefully! Check the ingredients list and the Nutrition Facts Label. The information is there if you look more closely.

To see the full report click here.

Have a whole fruit happy day!

(Photo courtesy of the Strategic Alliance)
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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