11 Of The Unhealthiest Store-Bought Fruit Snacks

Person holding fruit snacks
Person holding fruit snacks - Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

Despite marketing ploys that say otherwise, fruit snacks are not a healthy food. These popular products often contain huge quantities of sugar and several potentially harmful food dyes which are used to improve the snacks' appearance. As a result, regular consumption of store-bought fruit snacks can pose significant health risks to both adults and children, even playing a part in causing diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

This can be tricky to keep in mind when shopping, though. For one thing, these products tread the line between food and candy. Perhaps this is why they're so popular: Parents can give them to children with a clear conscience while the children enjoy their candy-like appearance, texture, and taste. To make matters even more complicated, fruit snack packaging often plays up the product's purported health benefits, such as being fat free or containing vitamins. Thankfully, if you know to pay attention to sugar or synthetic food dye content, you're on the right track -- and you're not alone in this task. We're here to highlight 11 of the unhealthiest store-bought fruit snacks, enabling you to make informed decisions when shopping.

Read more: The 18 Unhealthiest Store-Bought Sliced Breads You Can Buy

Welch's Summer Fruits Fruit Snacks

Box of Welch's fruit snacks
Box of Welch's fruit snacks - Welch's

Welch's Fruit Snacks are one of the leading fruit snack brands on the market. This brand is also majorly responsible for the fruit snack industry's less-than-stellar reputation when it comes to nutrition. In 2015, Welch's was taken to court in a class action lawsuit that accused the company of labeling practices that obscured the product's unhealthy nature. The lawsuit was settled for $1.5 million.

Despite the lawsuit, Welch's Fruit Snacks have remained an unhealthy food that's marketed as healthy. Packaging boasts that the product is loaded with vitamins and is fat free. Both claims are true, yet they draw attention away from the fact that Welch's Fruit Snacks are full of sugar. For example, the brand's Summer Fruits flavor contains 10 grams of sugar per 22.7 gram pouch. This means that nearly half of the entire product by weight is made up of sugar.

To make matters worse, 8 of these 10 grams are made up of added sugar. This is the unhealthiest form of sugar. Added sugar has been linked with numerous diseases, as professor of nutrition Dr. Frank Hu explained to Harvard Health Publishing: "The effects of added sugar intake -- higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease — are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke."

YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks

YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks
YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks - YumEarth

As befits a company that specializes in allegedly health-conscious candy, YumEarth's fruit snacks are organic, made with non-GMO products, and free from artificial dyes and flavors. While these are things to be celebrated, they do not mean that YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks are healthy. In fact, this product is decidedly unhealthy due to the huge amount of sugar that it contains.

YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks contain 37 grams of sugar, all of which are added sugars, per 57 gram bag. In other words, more than half of the product by weight is made up of added sugar. As per the product's label, the sugar content of a single pouch amounts to 74% of the daily recommended intake.

Daily recommended values are calculated from a 2,000 calorie per day diet. However, children -- the consumer group which YumEarth's products are marketed towards -- often consume much less than 2,000 calories per day. The American Heart Association states that children between 4 and 8 years old need to consume anywhere between 1,200 and 1,400 calories per day with 9 to 13 year olds consuming between 1,600 and 1,800. This means that the 37 grams of sugar in a YumEarth Organic Snacks pouch could easily contain over 100% of a child's daily recommended sugar intake.

Fruit By The Foot Starburst

Fruit By The Foot Starburst
Fruit By The Foot Starburst - Fruit By The Foot

Fruit By The Foot is a type of fruit snack that comes in the form of a wound-up strip. Unsurprisingly, these products are high in sugar: Fruit By The Foot Starburst contains 10 grams of sugar, of which 9 are added sugar, per 21 gram roll. While this is a large amount, greater concern should perhaps be paid to the number of additive food dyes found in Fruit By The Foot Starburst.

Four food dyes are listed in Fruit By The Foot Starburst's ingredients: red 3, red 40, yellow 5, and yellow 6. These are deemed food additives of concern by the Environmental Working Group, due to the additives' links with various diseases and behaviors. According to the Center For Science In The Public Interest, red 3 has previously been identified as a thyroid carcinogen in animals, while red 40 has been found to increase the speed with which mice develop tumors. Of course, such studies do not guarantee that these dyes are carcinogenic to humans. However, they do raise serious concerns regarding the dyes' use in food products, especially those marketed to children.

Funables Mixed Berry Fruity Snacks

Box of Funables Fruity Snacks
Box of Funables Fruity Snacks - Funables

Funables Fruity Snacks are a candy-like product that come in several flavors, all of which contain potentially harmful food dyes. In Funables Mixed Berry Fruity Snacks, the two dyes used are red 40 and blue 1. Blue 1 was approved for use in foods by the Food and Drug Administration in 1969, but has been found to cause allergic reactions in some consumers. Aside from this, food additives are enabled by law to contain several impurities, some of which are noted as carcinogenic. This suggests that the likes of blue 1 can have detrimental impacts on health.

Aside from food dyes, Funables Mixed Berry Fruity Snacks also contain a great deal of sugar. Each 22 gram pouch includes 12 grams of sugar, of which 11 grams are added sugars. This means that half of Funables Mixed Berry Fruity Snacks by weight are made up of added sugar, a huge red flag for those seeking out a healthy snack. These sugars are added to Funables Mixed Berry Fruity Snacks through a variety of ingredients, the most prevalent being corn syrup and table sugar.

Mott's Assorted Fruit Fruit Flavored Snacks

Mott's Fruit Flavored Snacks
Mott's Fruit Flavored Snacks - Mott's

Mott's Fruit Flavored Snacks in the Assorted Fruit flavor utilize vegetable and fruit juices to enhance color. As a result, this product does not contain potentially harmful synthetic food dyes, such as red 40 and blue 1. It would be a stretch to label Mott's Fruit Flavored Snacks as healthy, though. The product contains 9 grams of sugar per 23 gram pouch. All 9 grams are made up of added sugars.

Happily, the product does not contain high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener often used in food production. This is good, as high fructose corn syrup has been shown to be unhealthier than other sources of sugar, such as refined sugar; it causes an appetite increase in those consuming it. What's more, consumption of high fructose corn syrup is also linked with a variety of diseases, as Dr. Mark Hyman explained to Cleveland Clinic: "High fructose corn syrup also contributes to diabetes, inflammation, high triglycerides and something we call non-alcoholic fatty liver disease."

Due to the absence of synthetic food dyes and high fructose corn syrup, Mott's Fruit Flavored Snacks in Assorted Fruit can be deemed to be one of the healthier fruit snacks on this list. That being said, the product remains far from healthy.

Tropical Gushers

Box of Gushers Tropical
Box of Gushers Tropical - Gushers

Gushers are one of the most enduring fruit snacks around, having been produced by Betty Crocker since 1992. These fruit snacks, which have a juicy center, often lean into nostalgia-based branding and are directly marketed to children. The Tropical Gushers section of the Gushers website even reads, "These packaged snack bags are the perfect treat to include in a packed school lunch box." However, any illusions that Gushers are healthy snacks should be abandoned. As with many products featured in this article, the reason for this is twofold.

Firstly, Tropical Gushers are loaded with added sugar, with every 23 gram pouch containing 10 grams of it. That is nearly half the total amount of added sugar children are advised to consume per day according to a statement made by The American Heart Association, published in Circulation.

Secondly, Tropical Gushers contain four additive food dyes that are cause for concern: red 40, blue 1, yellow 5, and yellow 6. Both yellow 5 and yellow 6 are banned in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe over concerns that the low levels of benzidine present in them cause cancer. As long as the dye does not cause more than one cancer case per million people however, the FDA will not ban it. As such, these compounds still feature in fruit snacks such as Tropical Gushers.

AriZona Mixed Fruit Fruit Snacks

AriZona Fruit Snacks Mixed Fruit
AriZona Fruit Snacks Mixed Fruit - AriZona Beverages

AriZona is a brand best known for selling cheap and delicious iced tea. This hasn't stopped the company from branching out into fruit snacks, though. AriZona now stocks five different flavors, in fact: sour, sour mixed lemonade, Arnold Palmer, green tea, and mixed fruit. This venture has been successful; AriZona's offerings are often ranked as some of the best fruit snacks available.

AriZona makes a point of keeping its fruit snacks free from preservatives, synthetic colors, and artificial flavors. Instead, color and flavor is added through naturally occurring ingredients. For example, paprika oleoresin, a compound extracted from members of the capsicum family, is used as a color enhancer in the band's Mixed Fruit product. That being said, AriZona's Mixed Fruit Fruit Snacks cannot exactly be deemed healthy. The product contains 12 grams of sugar per 30 gram serving, with 8 of these coming in the form of added sugar. So, while AriZona's fruit snacks are better than some competitors', they have their own problems.

Black Forest Juicy Burst Mixed Fruit Snacks

Black Forest Juicy Burst
Black Forest Juicy Burst - Black Forest

Black Forest produces a variety of fruit-based treats including gummies, strips, and fruit snacks. These latter products are labeled as Juicy Burst, thanks to the fruit juice filling they contain. While popular, this product contains extremely high levels of sugar; 13 grams per every 22 gram pouch.

Every single one of these 13 grams is made up of added sugar, meaning Black Forest Juicy Burst Mixed Fruit Snacks contain one the highest amounts of added sugar per serving in this article. In fact, this total is only 1 gram less than the amount of added sugar found in a 30 gram bag of Haribo Gold Bears. This actually means that, piece for piece, Black Forest Juicy Burst Mixed Fruit Snacks are more sugar-rich than the famed candy.

Thankfully, Black Forest Juicy Burst Mixed Fruit Snacks don't contain synthetic food dyes. Instead, the brand uses various foods to add color to the product, including turmeric and spirulina extract. Turmeric is a popular spice that's popped up in all kinds of trendy food as of late, while spirulina is a commonly consumed type of blue-green algae.

Annie's Organic Summer Strawberry Bunny Fruit Snacks

Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks - Annie's Homegrown

Several brands on this list differentiate themselves by producing organic fruit snacks. This is a good thing. However, the fact that products such as Annie's Organic Summer Strawberry Bunny Fruit Snacks are organic does not mean that they are good for you.

In this particular product's case, it is the high sugar content that makes it impossible to classify them as healthy. Annie's Organic Summer Strawberry Bunny Fruit Snacks contain 12 grams of added sugar per 23 gram pouch. Regardless of whether this added sugar is organic or not, its presence in such a quantity indicates that this product is not the healthy snack it purports to be.

On the plus side, these fruit snacks don't contain synthetic food dyes. Instead, natural food colorings taken from organically produced carrots are used to enhance the product's color.

Good & Gather Strawberry Fruit-Flavored Snacks

Good & Gather Strawberry Fruit-Flavored Snacks
Good & Gather Strawberry Fruit-Flavored Snacks - Target

The enduring popularity of fruit snacks has seen several major grocery retailers launch their own private labels. One of the most successful private label fruit snack products is from Good & Gather, one of Target's in-house brands. As with many other products on this list, Good & Gather Strawberry Fruit-Flavored Snacks are packed with sugar. Each 23 gram pouch contains 12 grams of sugar, all of it added sugar. In terms of sugar, this puts Good & Gather's product on par with Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks.

To the brand's credit, Good & Gather does not use synthetic food dyes to color these snacks, opting instead to use black carrot juice as a means of enhancing the product's appearance. Unlike Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks, however, this particular product has no organic status to fall back on. As a result, consumers are less likely to misconstrue Good & Gather Strawberry Fruit-Flavored Snacks as being healthy. This is a good thing, considering the amount of sugar that they contain.

Great Value Fruit Smiles

Great Value Fruit Smiles
Great Value Fruit Smiles - Walmart

Walmart's Great Value brand is known for its variety of popular and affordable products. The brand's Fruit Smiles are one example, with a box of 10 pouches selling for under $2.60. Although cheap, this product is not one consumers should purchase or consume all that often; it stands as one of the unhealthiest fruit snack products mentioned in this article.

Great Value Fruit Smiles contain several synthetic food dyes including red 40, yellow 5, and blue 1. As we've seen, these artificial dyes pose several health risks and are known to cause allergic reactions and potentially hyperactivity in some children who consume them. To make matters worse, Great Value Fruit Smiles also contain a lot of sugar, with each 23 gram serving boasting a huge 16 grams of sugar. Thankfully, only 11 grams come from added sugars. This is still an extremely high amount, though, making Great Value Fruit Smiles some of the unhealthiest fruit snacks around.

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