Q: Hi, I was wondering what the story is with all those freeze dried fruit snacks? I always give them to my two year old instead of cookies, chips, and sugary snacks, but does it REALLY count as having fruit? What nutritional benefits are taken out with the water during the process of dehydration? — Allyson
A: This is a great question since so many of these products are out there and who knows how many more will be coming our way. First off, let’s do a little comparison of these freeze-dried varieties to fresh fruit:
- Brothers All Natural Freeze Dried Fuji Apples (1 bag): 39 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 0 g protein, 2% vitamin A, 3% vitamin C, 0% calcium, 0% iron. Ingredients: 100% Freeze Dried Fuji Apples. They also note that “each bag contains approximately 1 1/2 Fuji Apples!”
- Crispy Green Inc. Crispy Apples (1 bag): 40 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 10 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 0 g protein, 0% vitamin A, 3% vitamin C, 0% calcium, 0% iron. Ingredients: Fuji apples.
- Fresh Fuji Apples (1 1/2 medium apples): 142 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 28 g sugar, ~1 g protein, 3% vitamin A, 21% vitamin C, 5% calcium, 0% iron.
Based on this comparison you can see that fresh apples have more calories, carbs, sugar, fiber, and micronutrients than the freeze-dried apples. While there is a lot more sugar in fresh apples, it is natural sugar from the fruit itself, not added sugar, and there is more fiber in a fresh apple than in the freeze-dried varieties, because of the skin and the flesh of the fruit, which is lost in processing. While there are more of some vitamins and minerals in fresh fruit, the difference isn’t so great to be concerned with the loss of those nutrients.
Some fruits will have more similar nutritional facts. For example, strawberries do not contain as much water as an apple, so the dehydrated product is more similar in calories to fresh strawberries than dehydrated apples are to a fresh apple. And not all freeze-dried products are alike. Just Tomatoes, Etc products contain more calories (100), carbs (26 g), sugar (22 g), and sodium (38 mg), and fewer micronutrients (0% vitamins A & C and calcium) per ounce than the other freeze-dried packages. Like always, the key is reading the Nutrition Facts and the list of ingredients.
Overall I think these freeze-dried fruits are a good substitute for chips (which often contain 120-150 calories and 10+ g fat per ounce) and fruit snacks that don’t really contain fruit (see yesterday’s Trick or Treat post; 1 pouch contains 90-100 calories, 21 g carbohydrate, 13 g sugar). That being said, the dehydration of these snacks makes them less filling (which is why they can be so much lower in calories than fresh fruit), and may have a sweeter flavor than fresh fruit. They can be a good subsitute for fresh fruit when on the go, but remember fresh is always best!
P.S. The all natural freeze dried varieties would make a great healthy treat for Halloween!
*I am not a spokesperson or consultant for any of the products mentioned in this post.