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Is That Right? Goldfish Crackers Provide 1/3 Serving of Real Vegetables

Let me be clear: I have nothing against Goldfish crackers. I agree with Cristin Dillon-Jones, Self magazine's "Eat Like Me" blogger, who wrote in a guest blog for The Checkup this summer that occasional treats such as Goldfish can be part of a healthful diet. Not every food we put in our mouths has to be a nutrition powerhouse.

But when I came across a bag of new Garden Cheddar Goldfish that provide "1/3 serving of real vegetables in each serving," I thought Goldfish might have jumped the shark.

The ingredient list for this new breed of Goldfish indeed names many vegetables. Its "dehydrated vegetable blend," the fifth item listed (sixth, if you count the "smiles" cutely listed first), contains dried peas, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes and a smattering of additives such as cornstarch and wheat gluten.

So one might reasonably expect the Nutrition Facts panel to report that the crackers contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C and plenty of fiber, which that particular group of vegetables should provide in abundance.

Sorry. A 56-cracker serving (one-sixth of the bag) provides just 2 percent of the Daily Value for Vitamin A, 1 gram of fiber (for 4 percent of the DV) and no Vitamin C at all.

It appears that those vegetables are veggies in name only.

Even if you tripled up your serving, theoretically boosting it to a full, rather than just a one-third, serving of vegetables, you'd be getting just 6 percent of the DV for Vitamin A, 12 percent of your daily fiber and still no Vitamin C. Plus, you'd be ingesting 420 calories (150 of them from fat) and, at 750 milligrams, 30 percent of the sodium you should have in a day.

The packaging makes clear that these crackers are meant for kids: It offers suggestions for "fun" activities such as playing tic-tac-toe using vegetables and this joke: "What did one tomato say to the other? You go on ahead and I'll ketchup." (I think that may have been Ronald Reagan's favorite riddle.)

I think it's high time we all stopped acting as though vegetables are so objectionable they need to be sneaked into kids' diets.

Here's a suggestion: For a snack, why not serve a handful of, say, pizza-flavored Goldfish--which, with 140 calories (45 of them from fat), 230 mg of sodium and no pretense of providing Vitamin A, Vitamin C or fiber, have the added benefit of actually tasting good--plus a handful of baby carrots?

Do you and your kids eat lots of fruits and vegetables? Is it a chore requiring subterfuge? Or have you managed to make eating veggies a positive experience?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  September 25, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness  
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It is neither a chore requiring subterfuge nor a positive experience, because I've just chosen not to make it a battle for now. DD will eat fruit till the cows come home; DS won't even eat Flintstones vitamins because they taste like fruit. And they're both equally obstinate and opinionated; pushing just makes them dig in their heels. So I make a variety of foods, try to keep the options overall reasonably healthy, limit snacks/sweets, and give them lots of positive attention when they try new foods. We also (try to) model good eating habits and talk about healthy choices, how different foods do different things to help your body (strong bones, build muscle, give you energy, help your body fight off bad germs, etc. etc. etc.). I am also starting to teach DD how to cook, a bit at a time. But we do not either sneak veggies into things or force them to eat things they don't want. Wouldn't work anyway -- the one time I tried to sneak a very well-mashed banana into the weekend pancakes, DS spotted it right away and rejected the whole batch! My hope is that, by the time they get big enough to make their own decisions, they understand what healthier choices are and have the skills to make those choices for themselves.

On the Goldfish: sheesh. One serving of veggies is pretty teensy in and of itself -- even V8 fusion light (which I drink because it tastes great without a ton of sugar) gives me a full serving in every glass. So a big banner advertising a whopping 1/3 of a serving -- well, let's just say that's not going to make me line up to buy them. I'm with you on this one: I'd rather eat reasonably 95% of the time, and then eat a real treat for that other 5%, than try to justify eating more crap just because they fortified it with something they extracted out of some other food that would be good for you (if you ate the other food instead of the fortified crap). Fundamentally, goldfish should be in the 5%, not the 95%, and sticking in a few highly-processed veggie leftovers doesn't change that.

Posted by: laura33 | September 25, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I have 14mo twin boys, and one of their favorite dinnertime foods is "spinach meatballs" - no meat, just spinach, eggs, breadcrumbs, and grated cheddar cheese, formed into little balls and baked in the oven. And they can eat them by themselves - a bonus for growing boys who want to assert their independence.

Trial and error showed me that I can't be a purist about it (eat pureed spinach, or else!), but at least at this stage, there is no need to hide it -- they have not yet been conditioned to hate veggies! Actually, we all kinda like the spinach meatballs ...

Posted by: newtodc1 | September 25, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

The problem is that new parents have this preconceived notion that kids and veggies do not mix and, thus, don't even bother trying. (Notion perpetuated by Jerry Seinfeld's wife's cookbook.)

If you start feeding your child veggies at an early age and act like it's no big deal, then it will be a normal part of life. Also, you have to make it fun. Examples:

- Cauliflower are white trees and broccoli are green trees.
- Pretend that you are rabbits eating carrots.
- Play Simon Says, "Simon says: everyone eat a green bean!"
- I pretty much add cheese to a lot of our veggies, which I think is less of an evil if it gets her to eat the veggie.
- We also drink the V8 fusion light as our juice.

This is not to say that I won't resort to ultimatums ie withhold dessert.

Posted by: mediajunky | September 25, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

"If you start feeding your child veggies at an early age and act like it's no big deal, then it will be a normal part of life."

Funny, that's what I thought, too. Practically threw my shoulder out patting myself on the back for how well I was doing with DD (the one who gravitates to fruit, salad, and lean protein, and who claims her favorite food is sushi).

Then along came DS . . . . Talk about Jack and Mrs. Spratt! At McDonald's once, @ 6 and 2, she peeled the breading off the chicken nugget and ate the chicken; he peeled the breading off and ate the breading. She ate the apple dippers -- and skipped the caramel dip; he rejected the apples but ate all of our fries.

Seriously, some taste buds are just way more sensitive. As hard as I've tried to make myself like the cruciferous veggies and fish, most still make me gag. Also can't do much spicy; heck, I couldn't even drink sodas as a kid, because they hurt my throat. Oh, and no red wine -- it tastes ridiculously bitter.

The funny thing is that I worked so hard to avoid inflicting my food pickiness on my kids -- and like I said, it worked great with DD. I thought I was a genius! But with the boy, man, I can play trees, ants on a log, cheese sauce, you name it -- zero effect. So I just continue to offer fruits/veggies and praise him for being such a big boy when he does try something, but otherwise chalk it up to the poor guy getting stuck with my taste buds. Over the past year, he has finally opened up to apple juice and edamame. So I'm going with that and calling it a victory!

Posted by: laura33 | September 25, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I recently bought Halls sugar free cough drops for my cold and noticed that the package said,

Exchange Information:
10 Drops = 1 Fruit.

(The dietary exchanges are based on the Exchange Lists for Meal Planning, Copyright 1989 by the American Diabetes Association, Inc. and the American Dietetic Association.)

10 Drops = 1 Fruit? Is that right? There's no fruit in these drops unless you're counting "Flavors" or "Yellow 5."

It also said, "Excess consumption may have a laxative effect," but that's beside the point.

Posted by: magg_ie | September 25, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

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