Friday, May 23, 2014

Are Trader Joe’s Snacks Healthy?


Trader Joe’s is considered the “good guy” in the foodie world, because the grocery retailer refuses to sell products with controversial ingredients in its stores. That does not automatically translate to healthy, even though some products could fool you.
Take the product pictured above, screaming “Mango! Mango!” at you. You then notice that’s it’s actually a fruit and yogurt flavored gummy. Obviously not a health food. That’s fine, but let’s see if TJ’s is true to its brand image, and uses non-controversial ingredients.
Here is the product’s ingredient list:
glucose syrup (wheat), sugar, mango pulp, animal gelatin, passionfruit juice concentrate, citric acid, lactic acid, yogurt powder (skimmed milk, yogurt cultures [s.thermophilus, l.bulcaricus]), pectin, natural flavors, sweet whey powder, lactose, elderberry juice concentrate, glazing agent (beeswax, vegetable oil [soybean, palm, coconut]).
As expected, the main ingredients are sugars (marked in bold). The mango pulp is also mostly sugar. A serving of 140 calories has 88 calories coming from sugar. There is no fiber, and no vitamins or minerals listed. Unlike other brands that fortify their candies with vitamin C or calcium to make them seem healthy, Trader Joe’s did not attempt to make their product seem to be what it’s not.
Most of the ingredients in the ingredient list are rather tame. TJ’s does not use artificial colors to make the gummy shapes look brighter. There are no problematic preservatives. The use of “natural flavors” is disappointing though. We expected Trader Joe’s to use high quality mango and yogurt ingredients that would not require the addition of lab-made flavors (yes, natural flavors are also synthesized in a lab).
To sum things up, it would be challenging to call a sugary snack “healthy”. But for many parents, treating their children to this type of gummy is a better choice than the brand name gummies created with problematic ingredients.

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