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Deceptive Advertising in Children’s Snack Foods

By Ritamarie Loscalzo


Knowing what to feed hungry kids that’s satisfying and nutritious is a dilemma faced by many parents.

While there’s lots of really good information on the web and in the bookstores, there’s also lots of misinformation that’s confusing and downright dangerous.  And just because someone has initials after their name, like MD or RD or CCN or PhD I does not mean you can blindly trust their information.

In preparing for my next blog post “Healthy Snacks for Hungry Kids” I decided to see who else is writing about the topic and how what they are saying fits into my world view.

I was shocked by what I found.  One nutritionist is promoting a product called Bagel Bites®.  There were many links throughout her site for these, and everything I could find (advertising) touted them as healthy wholesome whole grain pizza snacks foods for kids.

This particular nutritionist referenced Bagel Bites® in one of her tips for healthy snacking called “Don’t Forget the Whole Grains.”  In essence she said that kids don’t eat enough whole grains and we should look for ways to incorporate whole grain with each snack so they reach the target of 3 whole grain servings per day.   She goes on to say that one serving of Bagel Bites® provides 1/2 serving of whole grains.  To reach the target she suggests of 3 servings of whole grains, you’d need to eat 6 of these.

It took a lot of digging and I was finally able to locate the ingredients.

Turns out that each serving contains 190 Calories, 45 %  of the recommended Daily Value for Fat, 2.5g of saturated fat and  370mg Sodium.

So let’s take a look at what’s inside these “so-called” healthy snacks, Bagel Bites®.

Bleached Wheat Flour, Water, Mozzarella Cheese (Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)Tomato Puree (Tomato Paste, Water)Pepperoni (Pork and Beef, Seasonings [Salt, Spices, Dextrose, Oleoresin of Paprika, Flavoring, BHA, BHT, Citric Acid]Water, Cure [Salt, Sodium Nitrite]Lactic Acid Starter Culture)Green Bell Peppers, Red Bell Peppers, contains 2% or less of the Following: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Romano Cheese (Cow’s Milk, Cheese Cultures, Sat, Enzymes)Soybean Oil, Parmesan Cheese (Part Skim Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)Yeast, Modified Corn Starch, Nonfat Milk, Methylcellulose, Citric Acid, Oregano, Garlic Powder, Spice, Natural Flavor, Dough Conditioner (Ascorbic Acid)Enzymes.

Am I missing something?  I don’t even see the whole grain at all!  Bleached wheat flour is NOT a whole grain.

Even if Bagel Bites® do contain ½ serving of whole grain, as our nutritionist suggests, they are still a poor way to get whole grain servings, in contrast to ½ grain serving of quinoa or brown rice which is about ¼ cup cooked and contains  about 55 calories, no fat and only 3 grams of sodium.

Bagel Bites® are a prescription for disaster for anyone who’s gluten or dairy intolerant and contains pepperoni, a processed meat from factory farmed animals.

The concept is great.  Kids love pizza so why not give them a snack of pizza bites. And in all honesty, these are much better than many other commercially available snacks for kids, but I believe you can do much better.

In our class Kids in the Kitchen , we teach how to make similar snacks in a jiffy, from whole organic fresh foods.  There are several possibilities for a quick wholesome crust,  including, in order of “wholeness”,  jicama slices, polenta slices,  flax crackers, rice cakes, brown rice crackers, and gluten free whole grain English muffins.  There are even commercially available gluten free pizza crusts.  Our family favorite is one we get at whole foods that contains nothing but whole brown rice and potatoes.

For cheese the best choice is a home made  dairy free nut or seed cheese.  We offer several quick and easy recipes in the Kids in the Kitchen class  and more sophisticated fermented versions in our Dairy Free Raw Cheese Class.  For sauce, the quickest is a jar of organic tomato sauce and the most wholesome is a raw marinara, made in minutes in your food processor.

Here’s a review I wrote on the site that had the Bagel Bites® ingredients:


Here’s a copy of what I below, just  in case they took it down!

“This is a prime example of a product that claims to be a healthy snack and is NOT.

The first ingredient is bleached wheat flour. This is white flour in disguise. Not good for anyone even if they are not gluten sensitive. They claim to contain whole grains. I don’t see any listed.

This product is just another attempt at clever marketing designed to steer unsuspecting and trusting parents to continue the devastation of feeding junk to kids and expecting them to be healthy.

There is nothing healthy about pasteurized hormone laden cheese, pepperoni, white flour, soybean oil, BHA and BHT, and high fructose corn syrup.

As a doctor who sees the effects of nutrition, good and bad, on kid’s health, I am appalled that such a product can be called a healthy snack for kids.

I teach my parents and children to make pizza using a base like jicama, rice cake or flax cracker topped with organic jarred tomato sauce or fresh from whole ripe tomatoes. The “cheese” we top it off with is made from organic raw nuts, bursting with high quality fats, protein and minerals. We teach them to discriminate truly health enhancing food from deceptive advertising.

At www.drritamarie.com/go/kids we teach kids to make their own healthy choices and give them the tools and recipes to make delicious nutritious easy to make foods.”

If you’re disgusted with all the misinformation and would like to teach your kids to make healthy choices, join us for the Kids in the Kitchen class .

We’ve set it up so if you join us in person, your kids will get to make their own food, with your assistance if need be.

Online, we set it up so that you can purchase the ingredients in advance (you’ll get a shopping list as soon as you register) so your kids can make the food during the class or afterward.

This is the 4th time I’ve done a class like this over the past 5 years and it’s always been a big hit.

So whether you have kids or grandkids, nieces and nephews or family friends,  It pays to learn to feed them right and to empower them to make the best possible choices.

If you can’t make the class live,  if you sign-up now you’ll get the videos at the pre-event investment of just $19.95 and can watch at your own pace.  In fact, you can create some summer  activities days by planning a recipe making session.  Make a full learning experience out of it, and even ask your child to invite a friend.  You can take them shopping, then watch the lesson together and then head to the kitchen to make food.  You can replay as often as needed for them to get what to do!

Creating Healthy Kids is your responsibility as a parent and what you feed them and the choices they make for themselves are critical to their success.

For additional resources related to kids’ health, we’ve posted three radio show recordings on the Dr. Ritamarie Radio Blog.

Kids Health Month Radio Shows

Creating Healthy Children with author Karen Ranzi

Join Dr. Ritamarie and Karen for a lively and informative discussion on the importance of food on children’s health and hear about her son’s miraculous recovery from lifelong asthma within weeks of adopting a raw food diet.

Put Your Kids In Charge of Their Meals

It can be a challenge as a parent to make sure your kids eat wholesome and nutritious food. In this show, Dr. Ritamarie discusses how to  empower kids with information about the effects of food on their body and shares fun ways to teach them to make delicious meals and help them to make wise choices.

How Gluten Effects Kids Behavior, Focus and Concentration

Teachers report lack of focus in classrooms. Parents notice hyperactivity, mood swings, depression, and many other emotional behaviors. What is happening that is causing such issues in our kids? The answer may be a simple ingredient present in just about every meal…gluten!

Reversing Dyslexia with author Dr. Phyllis Books

If your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia, take heart.  A dyslexic diagnosis is not barrier to success.  Join Dr. Ritamarie and guest, Dr. Phyllis Books, author of “Reversing dyslexia: improving learning and behavior without drugs”  and find out what you can do to help your child reverse their dyslexia


With Love and Gratitude,

Dr. Ritamarie

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1 Comment

  1. Dan Cain on July 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Interesting and important article. The sad truth is that snack food is usually full of salt, sugar, and empty calories. The fact that they are designed to attract kids makes it even worse! The bagel bites are a good example, but the one that really gets to me is childrens ready made pizza, which invariably has extra sugar in the sauce to make them ‘tastier’.

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