Sum­mer on a stick: but can pop­si­cles be good for you?

The an­swer seems to be yes when it comes to the some of the prod­ucts, al­though you may have to pay ex­tra for the bet­ter prod­uct

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Lifestyle - Rose Costello

Mak­ing a habit of ex­am­in­ing food pack­ag­ing can turn one from a scep­tic into a full-blown cynic. So I was de­lighted to dis­cover a prod­uct that seems to be as en­tic­ing when you read the back as it is when you look at the front.

Pop­si­cle brand Well­nice is mak­ing treats that have lit­tle more than fruit and veg­eta­bles, yet taste like sum­mer on a stick.

Well­nice de­clares on the front of the packet that its Two Carat Di­a­mond car­rot, or­ange and gin­ger stick is “100 per cent Ir­ish”, which is sur­pris­ing given the or­anges are prob­a­bly not grown here. But let’s not quib­ble as a young Ir­ish duo makes the lol­lies in Lim­er­ick with in­gre­di­ents sourced by Keel­ings, the Ir­ish fruit sup­plier. Yes, but are the pop­si­cles any good – in both senses of the word? The an­swer seems to be yes.

Turn the packet over and you will see the words “no added sugar”, “no added wa­ter” and “ve­gan friendly”. No added sugar is of­ten code for “con­tains more of other types of sweet­en­ers” but not in this in­stance. The list of in­gre­di­ents is sim­ply: car­rot 49 per cent, or­ange and gin­ger. On the back, it also says “cold-pressed veg­etable and fruit ice pops”. This is a bonus for those who be­lieve cold-pressed juices re­tain more nutri­tion. It also says it is high in vi­ta­min C and vi­ta­min A. So far, so good. It also says on the Two Carat Di­a­mond packet “23 calo­ries per 80ml”. Nor­mally, this is the bit where I get an­noyed try­ing to work out the num­ber of calo­ries in a nor­mal serv­ing. But no, Well­nice has done the work for me. A Two Carat Di­a­mond lolly is 80ml and has 23 calo­ries. Sim­ple. Other flavours have dif­fer­ent calo­rie counts, de­pend­ing on which fruit and veg­eta­bles are used. The Le­mon Sucker at 15 calo­ries con­tains le­mon, pineap­ple and yel­low pep­per and pro­vides 88 per cent of the rec­om­mended daily in­take of vi­ta­min C.

These are very dif­fer­ent from stan­dard ice pops.

Marks & Spencer’s Va­len­cia Or­ange Juice Lol­lies, which are an­other good op­tion, are smaller, but each one has 68 calo­ries. That’s be­cause it is made up of “freshly squeezed” or­ange juice (87 per cent) and sugar. That added sugar makes all the dif­fer­ence. Fun­nily enough, Tesco’s Finest Freshly Squeezed Va­len­cia Or­ange Juice Lol­lies also have 87 per cent “freshly squeezed Va­len­cia or­ange juice” and sugar.

Less ap­peal­ing

Other sim­i­lar lol­lies are a lot less ap­peal­ing. The Calippo Mini Or­ange Pop­si­cle, which is made by be­he­moth Unilever, has just 20 per cent or­ange juice and that is from con­cen­trate. It also has three types of sugar.

The in­gre­di­ents are: wa­ter, sugar, glu­cose

syrup, ap­ple juice from con­cen­trate (5 per cent), fruc­tose syrup, acid­ity reg­u­la­tor, cit­ric acid, sta­bilis­ers (lo­cust bean gum and tara gum), colours (pa­prika ex­tract and cur­cumin) and flavour­ing.

De­spite the name, lo­cust bean gum has noth­ing to do with the hungry grasshop­pers of the same name. It is de­rived from the bean of the carob or lo­cust bean tree, which grows on the Mediter­ranean. Carob pow­der, made from carob beans, is of­ten used by the health con­scious as a sub­sti­tute for co­coa pow­der. The gum is ob­tained in a process that uses acid and heat. Tara gum is sim­i­lar and comes from the Peru­vian carob. It was re­viewed by the Euro­pean Food Safety Au­thor­ity last year and found not to be a cause for con­cern. These two work well to­gether, giv­ing good vis­cos­ity. The last in­gre­di­ent is the mys­tery “flavour­ing”. It is in­ter­est­ing that the pop­si­cles with­out ad­di­tives did not need added flavour­ing to taste good.

Fun­nily enough, Rown­tree’s Fruit Pastille Lol­lies have very sim­i­lar in­gre­di­ents, in­clud­ing three types of sugar. They con­tain wa­ter, fruit juice from con­cen­trate (25 per cent – pineap­ple, or­ange, le­mon, rasp­berry, black­cur­rant) sugar, glu­cose syrup, cit­ric acid, sta­bilis­ers (guar gum, sodium al­gi­nate, car­rageenan) flavour­ings, colours (beet­root red, an­natto, cur­cumin, cop­per com­plexes of chloro­phyllins) and dex­trose.

An­natto is a or­angey-red colourant de­rived from the seeds of the achiote shrub. Cur­cumin is the spice turmeric. Cop­per com­plexes of chloro­phyllins, aka E141(i), adds a green colour. These cheaper pack­ets boast “no ar­ti­fi­cial colours, flavours or ad­di­tives” but that does not mean they are health foods. Sugar, for ex­am­ple, is not ar­ti­fi­cial but it’s still not ad­vis­able to get too much, es­pe­cially in the form of fruc­tose syrup.

So what’s the catch with Well­nice. Well, the price is not as nice. They cost about twice as much as the others, but then you are get­ting a much bet­ter prod­uct. So Well­nice are top of the pops for me.

Cheaper pack­ets boast ‘no ar­ti­fi­cial colours, flavours or ad­di­tives’ but that doesn’t mean they are health foods

Well­nice is mak­ing treats that have lit­tle more than fruit and veg­eta­bles but they cost about twice as much as other brands.

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