Goldfish Crackers – Good or Bad for my Kids?

Pepperidge Farm is considered a high end baked goods company with awesome cookies, crackers, and for kids – Goldfish. Almost all tots will recognize the fish shaped finger food and happily munch away. What started as a single product, baked cracker, has expanded over the years to other flavors, colors, and ingredients. Only the fish shape stays the same.

But how nutritious are these fish for our kids? Are there any ingredients we should watch out for? We took a look at the nutrition labels and ingredient lists to find out…

What you need to know:

A serving of goldfish is 55 pieces, which seems quite a lot for toddlers, but definitely doable for preschoolers and up. At 140 calories, it’s not a very light snack, but not a huge one either. If you are worried about weight, there are 100 calorie packages you can buy.

The sugar count is very low (hey, it’s  cracker), but the sodium is high – 230-250mg (about 10-11% of the daily value for healthy adults).

There’s barely any fiber (less than 1 gram) because the flour used here is refined, not whole grain. You could opt for a version of Goldfish made with some whole grain. That gets you up to 2 grams of fiber. Meh.

The original product has a fairly simple ingredient list:

Made with Smiles and Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower and/or Soybean), Nonfat Milk (Adds a Trivial Amount of Cholesterol), Salt, Contains 2 Percent or Less of: Yeast, Leavening (Ammonium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sugar, Spices and Onion Powder.

Flour, oil, milk, salt, leavening, sugar and spices. Stuff most people who bake have at home. That’s a good thing.

The cheddar flavored product is nutritionally similar and adds cheddar cheese to the ingredient list. Some kids like it’s bite a bit more than the original, others don’t.

In keeping with the tradition of food industry success stories, Pepperidge Farm couldn’t stop at one or two products. More market share! More sales! And thus were invented some novel brand extensions. Here are 2 examples.

Definitely do not buy the RAINBOW version of Goldfish, as the colors all come from artificial dyes:

Blue 2, Red 40, Red 3,  and Blue 1.

Artificial colors are considered safe to consume by the FDA, but some countries in Europe are phasing them out due to concerns about neurological effect on children. You should try to minimize your kids’ exposure to them, especially in product categories where they have no reason to be in the first place.

The Garden-Cheddar, a “veggie-infused” product introduced last summer, claims to provide a third of a serving of vegetables that kids so sorely need.  Here’s the ingredient list:

Made with Smiles and Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid), Cornstarch, Cheddar Cheese [(Pasteurized Cultures Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Annatto], Dehydrated Vegetable Blend (Split Pea, Carrot, Tomato, Sweet Potato, Cornstarch, Maltodextrin, Soy Lecithin), Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower and/or Soybean), Wheat Gluten, Dehydrated Potatoes, Contains 2 Percent or Less of: Salt, Yeast, Maltodextrin, Autolyzed Yeast, Leavening (Ammonium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Yellow Corn Flour, Lactic Acid, Onion Powder, Paprika, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Natural Butter Flavor, Garlic Powder, Spices, Buttermilk, Sodium Phosphate, Calcium Lactate, Citric Acid, and Spice Extract.

Look at all the added ingredients. Can’t we just send the kid to school with 3 baby carrots and a handful of cherry tomatoes? We officially call bullshit on this veggie-in-the-snack marketing tactic.

Mintel, a consumer research company said that the veggie crackers are part of a “stealth health” trend that has been growing for years in cookies, crackers, chips and fruit snacks. The idea of sneaking those healthy ingredients in so that your kids won’t know the difference is becoming very popular.

Bottom line: The original baked goldfish crackers are a decent snack. The whole wheat variation, too. Some of the other inventions – NOT.

What to do at the supermarket:

When looking for snack crackers, keep your eyes on the ingredient list and look for partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat). If you spot any (Ritz), move on. Sodium content can be very high, try to stay under the 230mg (10% dv) number. Whole wheat options are better where possible. No artificial colors, save your allowance for candy.

Blue 2, Red 40, Red 3, Annatto (Color) and Blue 1

Get Fooducated

  • http://www.betterschoolfood.org Dr. Susan Rubin

    I would venture to disagree on Goldfish.Canola, Sunflower and/or Soybean oils are questionable in my book.
    Autolyzed yeast extract is another word for MSG (http://www.truthinlabeling.org/nomsg.html)
    But most importantly, Goldfish can act as a gateway drug that opens the door to more overly processed, packaged foods. Kids get used to the crunch and the unnatural colors. Moms and kids who rely on the “convenience” of goldfish will likely choose chips and other junk down the road.

    Why not get off to a good start and choose fresh veggie sticks instead?

    • Jabob

      A gate way drug? We are talking about goldfish snack crackers. From reading your reply you probably have a pretty inticate, and tempered understanding of food/food products. Do you really think that it will result in children craving food products with MSG/ Autolyzed yeast or is this just an assumption made about msg’s addictive qualities?

      • Mel

        Absolutely. I personally know people that are addicted to processed foods loaded with MSG (remember ramen girl?) and they truly wish they had been brought up better. They wouldn’t be overweight and have other health problems now if someone had educated them. Sugar is indeed a gateway drug because it is truly addictive and detrimental to your health! Things are not always what they seem in this world. What seems like an innocent goldfish cracker can definitely be something more. I personally think the crackers are tasty but I know why, and I know what I’m getting myself into. Children, however, do not. Moms beware.

    • kathleen

      Sometimes parents besides moms feed children, too.

  • Heidi

    i give my son goldfish but i do limit them a lot more than certain other items. my son is only 1 and i like goldfish crackers so when i have some i will give him some.. i think it is just that people let kids go crazy on them and give them goldfish with no other healthy options..

  • http://www.theveggiequeen.com Jill, The Veggie Queen

    My son didn’t see goldfish at home but sometimes saw them when he was at play dates at friend’s houses. He didn’t like cheese when he was little so they weren’t a favorite.
    As a Registered Dietitian, I certainly don’t recommend them for kids. They are another processed food that doesn’t deserve a place on the shelf where there are small children. Give them real foods most often.

  • Joyce

    I LOVE that you called the “bullshit” card!

  • http://www.theveggiequeen.com Jill, The Veggie Queen

    @Dr. Susan Rubin
    This is a great answer. I agree.

  • Jessica

    I think if that is the worst thing my son eats than he is ok. I agree you should not be handing them out all the time, but he does love them. He will not be headed to chips and candy at all, he also LOVES his fruits and vegetables as well. I also feel we do a good job since I see kids all around him at daycare and such that eat LOADS of junk and McDonalds which he has never had.

  • http://www.livingitupcornfree.com kc

    For everyone that believes these are relatively harmless, you should be aware that they wouldn’t be possible without GMO corn. As a corn allergic, I have found that most children are ingesting GMO corn derivatives with every single meal. These little “harmless” crackers are a prime example of the way GMOs are placed into every package on the grocery store shelves (even Whole Foods). Anything made with enriched flour contains GMO corn in the form of the vitamin and mineral “enrichments”. These snacks are also made with soybean or canola oil, two of the most prevalent GMO products, both of which are extremely high in pesticide residue. There is not even an organic version available (which would ensure that MOST, not all, of the ingredients would not be from GMOs). These crackers and conventional snacks like them are slowly killing the kids of America and not because of the empty calories but because of the genetically modified crops and pesticides. Stop buying this poison and feeding it to your kids!

  • Tricia

    I am a Grandmother that is trying to change the why my grandchildren eat. Nothing in my kitchen has genetically modified crops (GMOs)in the ingredient list. We live in the heart of the Midwest and see first hand that the farmers are all planting GMO crops. All of us must read the labels and refuse to purchase food with modified cornstarch, modified soy, or modified food of any kind. Our bodies were not made to digest modified foods. Protect your families health, shop wisely and eat 90% whole organic foods daily.

  • http://www.trulyhealthybaby.com Heather T

    @Dr. Susan Rubin

    Both of these comments are right on.

    In addition I want to point out that the Annie’s Organic Version also is loaded with poor ingredients and MSG (it just goes by another label as well).

    More importantly these snacks are not baked they are extruded….

    Read below why you should never feed your family anything that is extruded.
    http://www.westonaprice.org/modern-foods/567-dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry.html

    Heather

  • Update

    There’s an update on the colored Goldfish. They are now using natural colors instead of the artificial ones.

  • PwnagePanda69

    Okay you all need to chill out. Keep your kids away from heroin not baked snack crackers. Dayum…

  • Crew1promo

    fyi… goldfish colors are now made with fruit juice for color… NOT food coloring/dyes!

  • guest

    Who cares if you eat a bag of goldfish colors? It’s not going to “hurt” kids. People today think everything is dangerous and unhealthy.

    • Ludicrousmama

      Actually, kids with ADD, ADHD , SPD and Autism spectrum disorders can have behavioral problems as a result of the artificial colors messing with their brains. This is a proven fact, and most countries have either banned or are in the process of banning artificial colors for this reason. Not all kids are affected, but enough to make it serious. The US is one of the last stragglers.

    • Conuly

      Food colors are also a migraine trigger and have been linked to the development of cancer.

  • guest

    By the way, I’m sitting here eating goldfish while I’m typing, so HA HA to all the people who think these harmless crackers are so unhealthy and should not be given to kids!

    • Conuly

      Unhealthy does not mean “it will kill you instantly”. Your comment is a lot like that of somebody going “well, my granddad smoked ten packs a day and drank like a fish and lived until he was 90!!’”

      • hmmmmmmm

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        • Conuly

          No, it would not prove his point. One or two examples does not proof make.

  • Bridget Swinney RD

    Great summary of goldfish–which was definitely a standard snack for our kids when they were tots–perfect for keeping in the car. I agree–definitely stick to the original and whole grain but limit the portion size. It’s one of those foods that kids could eat the whole bag of if you don’t watch it! Bridget Swinney RD, Twitter: @BridgetTxRD

  • Grasshopper3737

    For anyone allergic to MSG, the Autolyzed Yeast Extract in some of their crackers caused an allergic reaction for me.

  • Duhsosilly

    I just read the ingredients on my box of Goldfish Colors crackers, and the ingredients that give color to the crackers appear to be:  beet juice, huito juice, paprika, watermelon juice, annatto exract, and turmeric extract.  Blue 2, Red 40, Red 3,  and Blue 1 are NOT listed.  I feel absolutely comfortable with my kids eating these as a little snack.

    • Ludicrousmama

      They switched over. Kudos to them. 

  • Laurie Sibley

    Interestingly, this article was originally written June 28, 2010. The ingredient list for the original goldfish looked safe enough for those with allergies to dyes, preservatives, and additives. However, today, July 30, 2011 I looked again at the ingredient list for original goldfish, and it now includes “autolyzed yeast,” another name for MSG. I was curious because the packaging declares “Now! Tastes even Better!” and I wondered how they were accomplishing that. I’m disappointed to find that Pepperidge Farm has sold out and *added* MSG products!! Why?!? Everyone already loved goldfish!

  • Gladiola284

    My family & I love your Goldfish baked crackers, our only complaint is that they are too  SALTY.     We are constantly rubbing salt off before eating them. Is it possible to reduce the salt covering, we are trying to live a healthier life style, baked is good, too much salt is not good.

  • Guest

    To the lady who said they aren’t a “light” snack because they’re 140 calories per person….one serving size is 55 crackers. I highly doubt your child could eat 55 at one time.

    • Anonymous

      As someone who used to eat about half or more of one of those giant bags in 1 sitting (I was 18)… challenge accepted! FYI I went through 12 boxes (with three giant bags inside) in about 8 months.
      ….I’ve recently gone through a health kick so I have been off the stuff for 4 months but still.

    • Conuly

      55 tiny crackers? Most kids could.

  • Yáll

    This is why America has an obesity epidemic, people thinking it´s normal to feed their kids this junk. It´s not real food! Darn advertising companies, trying to make people believe it is.

  • Cchugf

    im going to throw away my goldfish crackers

    • salty

      im gonna continue to eat them as we speak

    • AliveandKickin

      I’m going to quit wasting my time reading bullshit like this. My God, people; lets just quit eating and carry a bag of plasma around! Have we forgotten that the human body is an amazing device that can fight infection, poisons and a myriad of other things. I don’t condone anything in excess, but a handful of goldfish crackers on occasion……get a life people!

  • Your Argument Is Invalid.

    You should check yourself. Effort giving false information. In the ingredients for the colored goldfish there are no dyes listed. Instead, beet juice, huito juice and watermelon juice is listed for color. It even says “The color added to these crackers are derived from natural ingredients.” Seriously, if you are writing a food review you should at least know a little about the food.

    • Conuly

      Is it possible that the ingredient list has changed since this piece was first written?

  • cjb

    This article should be updated to mention that the Colors (Rainbow) version of these crackers now use natural dyes… Annatto Extract, Beet(s) Juice Concentrate, Paprika Extract, Paprika, Turmeric Extract, Huito Juice Concentrate, Watermelon Juice Concentrate.

  • jen

    they’re full of GMOs

  • SpEd T

    Goldfish are often used in special education classrooms as a reward or incentive. However, many of the ingredients are genetically modified, which is a concern (see the website of the Institute for Responsible Technology). I have tried to switch to Annie’s organic bunnies—which taste great—but many of the autistic kids can only say “fish” or have assistive tech devices (I-pad programs, etc.) that have icons for “Goldfish” but not the cheddar “bunnies.” Also the organic products are much more expensive, and our supplies are “funded” by the teacher’s or speech therapist’s own paycheck.

  • Hendanie

    My label: BAD. I swear they put something in them that makes them addictive! My son refused any other food for 2 days! He went overnight from eating everything, to throwing a tantrum is he wasn’t eating goldfish. WTF?! We gave them up cold turkey. I don’t even want to see their face again. Down the toilet with you, Nemos!

  • NJROB

    Is there artificial color in Gold Fish?

    • Conuly

      Not currently.

  • k.

    better off feeding with fruits and veggies, get them hooked on organic foods young. Health these days is horrible! …awww i cant wait to have kids.

  • http://twitter.com/LinaGrigaitis Lina Grigaitis

    Here is another problem with Goldfish crackers, they overexpose kids to sunflower oil, thus creating an explosion in Sunflower Allergies – http://sunflowerallergy.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/origins-of-food-allergies-2/

  • none

    Goldfish are glorfied junk food. You might as well be feeding your kids chips. They are very processed, therefore why they are cheap and have an extended shelf life. There is no nutritional value about them, and they are all processed. No it won’t harm your kids, but it especially won’t help them. No wonder we have such an obese society when our kids are eating junk like this.

  • educated

    For any of you ignorant people thinking these gold fishes are harmless, how wrong you are. They may seem harmless in the present, but soon you will see problems down the road. As one commenter stated that her kid wont even eat food because he’s not receiving any gold fishes… The Autolyzed Yeast is MSG, which is an excitotoxin that will overstimulate part of your brain, killing the brain cells one by one! You will be addicted to foods containing MSG, without even realizing it. Msg has many different names because if you KNEW these items contained MSG, you wouldn’t buy it. MSG can cause migraines, headaches, anxiety, rashes, cramps, mood swings, the list goes on and on! You should research why MSG is bad for you and hopefully you will be more educated on what foods to buy. Almost all processed foods have MSG in them now, and just because they do does not mean it’s okay. You know Mcdonalds and Carls jr use MSG in their food too… You become addicted to this junk, which has no nutritional value, and gain tons of unneccesary weight! Start buying organic products, you know fruits and vegetables. REAL FOOD!

    • pat

      i’ve been eating this shit for years and i’m athletic and perfectly fine

  • RightsReserved

    Goldfishcracker’s have GMO soybean ingredients in them.

  • angel

    Try annies organic cheddar bunnies instead. They taste great and are better for you.

    • Conuly

      Better, but not good. If you are going to snack on these crackers in any quantity, it doesn’t really matter which one you pick – they’re both unhealthy.

  • JohnHousecat

    Holy shit, you people are taking the fun out of your kid’s lives. It’s no god damned wonder that I read Tumblr after Tumblr of screwed up kids whining about depression, anxiety and other mental incapacitation because their parents were restrictive and crazy about their food (and recall that Tumblr is also a haven for the eating disordered). America may not be perfect when it comes to food, but YOU types are creating a whole new huge generation of kids who are neurotic about food.

    You are completely blind to the fact that all food has dangers. Whole wheat grains have wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), and that’s why there are people who are allergic to wheat (WGA also has carcinogenic, neurotoxic and immunotoxic properties). Whole wheat consumption also increases small LDL cholesterol, which is the BAD cholesterol that can contribute to heart disease. Whole wheat bread also has the same glycemic index as white bread. And aside from bread, anything organically grown can be contaminated by anything from GMOs to natural metals in the water and soil (mercury levels are rising here in California).

    Just feed the poor damned kids some Goldfish so they can enjoy their childhoods with a little bit of fun and imagination. I’m tired of reading about crazy people who haven’t simply clicked over a couple of science journals to read about the science of this stuff and instead spout sanctimonious hippie drippy anti-scientific nonsense. The science of this stuff goes beyond reading what the organic people tell you.

    • Conuly

      Good heavens! How on earth did children ever “enjoy childhood” before goldfish were invented? Only buying mass produced “snacks” provides children with fun and imagination, after all! You wouldn’t want the poor dears to have to snack on apples or make their own crackers, would you?

    • Guest

      John, your comment reveals how little you have read-up on this very serious subject. Food, today, is more dangerous and less real food than in anytime in both of our lives. Your attitude sounds like you really believe we can’t do anything about it, so “eat, drink and make merry for we’re going to die sometime.” Thankfully, we all don’t think like you, and in the end, if we, who are concerned, can make a difference in the food industry, our children will be better off. Feeding goldfish to the “d*mned kids” is not necessarily good parenting. It is a parent’s job to know what a child eats, and it isn’t easy with all the options and lack of supervision that prevails from people like you.

    • Mel

      This is old news. We know whole grains are bad. It’s time for organic and non-GMO.

  • Jess Elliott

    Someone has probably updated you on this by now, but I’m not reading 49 comments to see. Rainbow goldfish use all natural colors. My son has a severe food coloring allergy, and it’s one of a few colored foods he can have.

  • Grace Shailene

    Goldfish crackers are a junkfood that’s why they taste good, they’re cheap and they last long. They’re made from refined white flour, fattening processed dairy and loaded with salt and preservatives. They are not at all healthful for babies or toddlers. Stick to organic cereal, dairy free yogurt and fresh fruit/veggies.

  • Marya

    The rainbow version DOES NOT use artificial dyes. It use to but switch to utilizing dyes from vegetables in 2010.

  • Fairy_Tale

    I also don’t think that goldfish are the healthiest snack, especially the colored ones. I mean, who wants to put colored fish in their system anyway! Sure, they taste good… but they need to find a better way to make these kinds of things. Stuff like Cheez-Its and cheese puffs, which just saying no one should eat, are filled with sodium and once you start eating them you don’t stop until the whole bags gone! Sometimes I buy them for my kids, but only for special occasions. I don’t particularly like fruit, I didn’t when I was a kid, too. When I was a kid, my parents put the whole family on a gluten free diet… it was hard to last but in the end you feel better. I could still eat Baked Lays, so that is pretty much all I ate. They’re a lot healthier than Goldfish and are baked. In my opinion, you shouldn’t eat Goldfish too often!

  • Elegant Marie

    Pepperidge Farms changed from artificial colors to all-natural plant-based colors for the rainbow Goldfish.

  • Mel

    I heard that vegetable oils are also bad. I would stay away from Pepperidge Farms entirely (Don’t trust big corporations.) Trust me, your kids will thank you later when they wake up fit and with a clean bill of health every day as adults.