Apples are pretty much the perfect snack. These days, lots of places — McDonald’s, Burger King, even Target — serve them. I think it’s great.
Unfortunately, these places are also pairing their apples with caramel dipping sauces. That’s not so great.
After the success of souped up milk – chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, cookies ‘n cream anyone? — manufacturers have realized the magic of enhancing fruit too. But when fruit needs to be made more appealing, you know we’re in trouble.
It’s not just the practice of eating caramel-dripped apples that wreaks havoc on our kids’ habits, though. It’s the cumulative effect of adding sweetener to foods — including those already sweetened by nature — that trains our kids’ taste buds in the wrong direction.
Of course, you know what the dipping sauce does to nutrition.
Here’s how Target’s 2.25 oz serving of apple slices with caramel dip stacks up to a plain, old apple.
- Apple: 34
- Apples with dip: 70
- Apples: 7g
- Apples with dip: 14g
- Apple: 0mg
- Apples with dip: 25mg
The “at-least-they’re-apples” argument has some merit.
That’s how McDonald’s gets away with dishing up an additional 70 sugary, salty caramel calories with their apples. Anything looks good compared to French fries.
On the other hand…
1) The more kids expect foods to be highly sweetened, the less likely they are to eat foods that don’t meet the sugar threshold. Think broccoli, asparagus, and peas.
2) Overlooking the extras in one snack makes it a treat, but when sugary enhancers are added to meals and snacks throughout the day, that’s a lifestyle. In addition to caramel dipped apples, most kids also eat sweetened yogurt, cookies, sweetened (even if only lightly) cereal, ice cream, fruit strips, juice, and the list goes on.
According to the American Heart Association:
- The availability of added sugars has increased by almost 20% since 1970, adding 70 calories a day to the American diet, with no increase in physical activity.
- Children between 1 and 3 years old now take in an average of 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
Target’s caramel sauce has 5 different sources of added sugar. (1) High fructose corn syrup, then (2) sugar and (3) corn syrup in the condensed milk, then (4) some more sugar, and finally, just to make sure the sauce is sweet enough, (5) a little more corn syrup.
How do you like them apples?
~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~
Source: Product labels; http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1809/2, accessed 3/30/2010;http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/nutritionfacts.pdf, accessed 3/30/2010; Johnson, R. K., L. J. Appel, M. Brands, B. V. Howard, M. Lefevre, R. H. Lustig, F. Sacks, L. M. Steffen, and J. Wylie-Rosett. 2009. “Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: a Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.” Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association 120: 1011-20.