By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers
June 6, 2012
Applesauce is one of life's great mysteries.
Unlike the apples from which it originates, packaged applesauce always, every time, without fail, tastes the same. Buy a bag of Galas and each one tastes slightly different. One Pink Lady is sweet, one is tart. Braeburns are anything but uniform. And yet, a scoop of applesauce is a scoop of applesauce is a scoop of applesauce.
"I have no idea why that is," says registered dietitian Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It does not fill her with delight.
"We're kind of uniforming the flavor of that particular fruit for children," she says, "instead of letting them experience how individual fruits — even of the same variety — have their own unique flavor."
Of course, that uniformity is probably why applesauce is so warmly embraced by kids from the moment they can stomach solids, a fact not lost on food companies, who've begun packaging the stuff in squeeze pouches that eliminate the need for a bowl or spoon.
We recently brought three popular brands of squeeze applesauce (Mott's, Ella's Kitchen and GoGo Squeez) to a family picnic and asked the six kids in attendance to rank them in order of tastiness. What do you know? They all tasted pretty much the same. ("I like them all." "I don't know. They're all good!")
How, then, does a conscientious parent choose the best one?
Gazzaniga-Moloo would like to see us forgo all of them, frankly.
"I would put applesauce in a squeeze pouch on par with 100 percent fruit juice," she says.
Not a Twinkie, in other words, but also not, you know, an apple.
"An apple is nature's perfect packaging," she says.
"It's going to have more dietary fiber, a stronger nutrient profile and it's better for the environment because it cuts back on packaging."
Each of our brands offers up 1 gram of fiber, 20 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and a range of 7 (Ella's) to 12 (GoGo) grams of sugar. The vitamin C, Gazzaniga-Moloo points out, is added in during the processing, in the form of ascorbic acid.
"Applesauce is going to be lower in vitamin C because you lose a lot when you peel the apple," Gazzaniga-Moloo says. "You're pretty much just getting natural sugar and some more natural sugar."
Which is better than refined sugar. Certainly there are worse snacks. But there are also better ones.
"The truth is children love the marketing and the packaging of applesauce pouches," says Gazzaniga-Moloo. "But it's more costly and it's extra packaging for the environment when an apple already comes in the perfect form for traveling and lunchboxes."
Copyright © 2013, Chicago Tribune