Mott’s assorted fruit snacks are a popular snack food, especially among children. With colorful fruit shapes and fun flavors like berry, cherry, grape, and orange, they seem like they must be a healthy choice. But are they really as nutritious as their marketing makes them out to be? Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients and nutrition facts.
The main ingredients in Mott’s assorted fruit snacks are:
- Corn syrup – This is a refined sugar made from corn starch. It is very high in fructose.
- Sugar – More added sugar.
- Modified corn starch – Used as a thickener.
- Gelatin – Provides the chewy texture.
- Natural and artificial flavors – Flavorings to enhance the taste.
- Fruit juices from concentrate – Small amounts of cherry, orange, grape, and other fruit juices.
- Citric acid – Adds tartness.
- Colorings – FD&C Red 40, Blue 1, etc. Artificial food colorings.
As you can see, the main ingredients are sugar and refined carbs, along with some flavorings and food colorings. While fruit juice concentrates are included, they are far down on the ingredients list, meaning fruit is not a predominant ingredient.
Here are the nutrition facts for a standard 6-pouch serving of Mott’s assorted fruit snacks:
The main nutrients in Mott’s fruit snacks are carbohydrates and sugar. There is almost no protein or healthy fat. Vitamins and minerals are also lacking, as you’ll see next.
Vitamins and Minerals
Mott’s fruit snacks provide:
- 25% DV vitamin C
- 35% DV vitamin A
- 2% DV iron
They are fortified with some vitamin C and vitamin A to partially make up for the natural vitamins lost when the fruits are heavily processed into juices. Still, they lack other important vitamins like B vitamins, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Essential minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium are also absent.
Whole Fruits vs. Fruit Snacks
Compare the nutrition in Mott’s fruit snacks to that of whole fruits:
|1 serving grapes
|1 serving Mott’s grape fruit snacks
While the calorie and sugar content is similar, whole grapes provide more essential nutrients like fiber, potassium, vitamin K, and more vitamin C. This pattern holds true when comparing fruit snacks to their whole fruit counterparts.
Role of Fruit
In Mott’s fruit snacks, the fruit juice concentrates play a minor role when it comes to nutrition. While they contribute vitamin C, vitamin A, and some sweetness, the main ingredients driving calories, carbs, and sugar are the added sugars and corn syrup.
The fruit shapes and pictures on the packaging certainly give the impression that these snacks are equivalent to eating real fruits. But the minimal amount of fruit actually present makes them a poor substitute for getting these nutrients from whole food sources.
Blood Sugar Impact
Mott’s fruit snacks have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause a rapid rise in blood sugar when eaten. The refined sugars are quickly absorbed, causing blood sugar and insulin to spike soon after consumption.
In one study comparing the glycemic response of fruit snacks to whole apples in children, the fruit snacks resulted in more than double the blood sugar spike compared to apples with the same amount of carbohydrates (1).
The glycemic response of fruit snacks has been compared to candy, as both contain simple sugars that are quickly raised into the bloodstream (2). This is in contrast to the slower digestion of sugars from whole fruits that are bound up in fiber.
Effect on Appetite
Studies show that liquid sugars and refined carbs, like those that make up the bulk of fruit snacks, do not trigger feelings of satiety the way solid whole foods do. The lack of protein, fat, and fiber also fails to properly signal to the brain that you’ve eaten (3).
This means fruit snacks won’t lead to a decrease in appetite and food intake the way whole fruits that contain protein, fat, fiber, and volume do. You’re likely to end up eating more total calories when snacking on fruit snacks compared to whole fruit options.
The high sugar content in fruit snacks contributes to cavities and tooth decay, especially when eaten frequently. Sticky fruit snack gels allow sugars to adhere to teeth for prolonged periods, feeding the bacteria that promote cavities (4).
One study found children who consumed fruit snacks had nearly twice the chance of having cavities compared to those who did not eat fruit snacks (5).
Unlike whole fruits that contain fiber, fruit snacks stick in the crevices of teeth, lowering mouth pH and weakening enamel over time.
Mott’s fruit snacks contain several additives like artificial colors, natural flavors, and citric acid. Studies on the health effects of these additives are limited.
However, there is concern that regular consumption of artificial food coloring may be linked to behavioral problems in children, with links found between colorings and hyperactivity (6).
While natural flavors sound harmless, this vague term actually hides a complex mix of chemical flavor compounds, some of which may negatively impact health in ways we don’t yet understand.
Since Mott’s does not disclose whether their fruits are sourced from organic or conventional agriculture, their fruit snack ingredients likely contain pesticide residues.
Testing of conventionally grown apples, grapes, and oranges routinely finds multiple pesticides on the skins and fruit flesh. While these are present in low amounts in fruit snacks after processing, it is reasonable to try to minimize your pesticide exposure from foods whenever possible for long term health.
Mott’s fruit snacks also contain preservatives like sodium citrate and potassium sorbate. These prevent mold, yeast, and bacteria from growing and extend the shelf life.
Studies have found preservatives like these can cause irritant and allergic reactions in some people, especially those with food intolerances (7).
The standard serving size of Mott’s fruit snacks is three pouches, providing 60 calories and 13g of sugar. However, the snacks come in a pack of six pouches totaling 120 calories and 26g of sugar for the entire box.
It’s very easy to consume the whole pack in one sitting, doubling the calorie, carb, and sugar intake. The American Heart Association recommends no more than about 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for children, which can be surpassed quickly with these small packages (8).
Given the high sugar content, lack of protein, fiber, and micronutrients, and low satiety impact, Mott’s fruit snacks are not very nutritious.
A 6-pouch serving provides:
- 80 calories, all from carbohydrates
- 20 grams of refined carbohydrates
- 13 grams of added sugars
- No protein, fat, or fiber
- 25% DV for vitamin C
- 35% DV for vitamin A
- Minimal other vitamins and minerals
While not completely devoid of nutritional value, primarily deriving calories from added sugar and corn syrup is far from optimal nutrition for growing kids. The fruit content is not substantial enough to confer the benefits that come with eating whole fruits and vegetables.
Are Mott’s Fruit Snacks “Made with Real Fruit”?
Mott’s packaging states their fruit snacks are “made with real fruit” and “naturally flavored.” This phrasing makes it sound like the snacks predominantly contain real fruit.
However, the small amounts of fruit juice concentrates mixed with corn syrup, regular sugar, and thickeners result in a product that is primarily junk food rather than real fruit. The processed fruit components provide some fruit flavor and nutrients, but do not make up the bulk of the snacks.
Statements like “made with real fruit” can be misleading. Checking the ingredients list gives a more accurate picture of the relatively small fruit content compared to added sweeteners.
Mott’s also makes the claim on their fruit snack packaging that they are “gluten free” and a “good source of vitamin C.”
While it’s true they don’t contain gluten ingredients, gluten-free does not automatically mean healthy. The snacks are still high in refined carbs and added sugars.
And while 25% DV for vitamin C seems substantial, keep in mind it’s added as a fortifying nutrient. The vitamin C level pale in comparison to what you’d get from eating real fruits.
These marketing claims attempt to make the snacks sound like nutritious options, when in fact they are glorified candy.
A Healthy Swap for Fruit Snacks
For a truly nutritious snack, your best bet is always real, minimally processed whole fruits and veggies. Some healthy swaps to try instead of fruit snacks include:
- Fresh berries
- Apple or banana slices
- Orange segments
- Baby carrots
- Bell pepper slices
- Cucumber rounds
These provide way more nutritional bang for your buck, including:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Plant compounds
- Water content
For a tasty snack, you can’t beat real produce picked at the peak of freshness!
While Mott’s fruit snacks are marketed as a convenient healthy snack for kids, they are severely lacking in nutritional value compared to whole fruits and veggies.
Aside from a bit of added vitamin C, their nutrition profile offers little more than empty calories, carbohydrates, and sugar.
The glycemic impact, dental effects, preservatives, and additives are also downsides. And “made with real fruit” gives a misleading picture of their true low fruit content.
Parents wanting a convenient produce-based snack would be better off choosing dried fruit, fruit leathers without added sugar, apple sauce cups, frozen blended fruit popsicles, or fresh chopped fruit.
Mott’s fruit snacks should be thought of as candy rather than fruit. They can be an occasional treat, but are best limited in a healthy diet focused on more nutrient-dense foods.