All About Fruit
It's delicious, it's nutritious, and it can play a role in every meal
FRUIT: ESSENTIAL TO ANY DIET
Fruit is an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. Fruit comes in many forms—it can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, whole, sliced, or puréed. Fruit is naturally low in calories, sodium, and fat. Fruit is also a good source of fiber, carbohydrates, potassium, and vitamins A and C.
Most people do not eat enough fruit. If you do not eat enough fruit, your body may not get the vitamins and fiber it needs. Adults are recommended to eat 1½ to 2 cups of fruit each day. A ½ cup of dried fruit is equal to a full cup of fresh fruit.
Fruit can also help fill you up. Whole fruit, such as an apple, will leave you feeling fuller than puréed fruit, like applesauce, or fruit juice. Eating fruit at the start of a meal has been shown to help people eat fewer calories.
FRUIT FOR EVERY MEAL
- Breakfast. Breakfast can be your first chance to have some fruit in your day. If you have cereal for breakfast, add some fresh fruit instead of sugar. Strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and grapes are smart choices that do not take a lot of time to prepare. You can buy frozen berries when fresh ones are out of season. If you are in a rush, you can take the fruit with you. Try to keep fresh oranges, bananas, apples, peaches, or pears available to "grab and go"—it’s an easy way to have fruit for breakfast or for a snack
- Lunch. Try to include fresh or canned fruit in your lunch. If you pack your lunch, it’s easy to include a piece of fruit or a fruit salad as a dessert. If you eat out, it is still possible to have some fruit. Many restaurants now offer fresh fruit as an appetizer or for dessert
- Snacks. Fruit can make a terrific snack. Fruit like apples and oranges can be tossed into a purse, briefcase, or backpack in the morning for when you’re hungry. If you don't have fresh fruit available for a snack, canned fruit is fine, but watch out for heavy syrup and added sugars in canned fruit. Dried fruit is tasty and can be a great option if fresh fruit is not available. Dried fruit is also easy to store in your office or home because it does not need to be kept in a refrigerator
- Dinner. Dinner is a good time to review how much fruit you have eaten during the day. If you missed a serving, try fitting some into your evening meal. A chopped apple, pear, berries, or raisins can be nice toppings for a salad. Try adding dried fruit (like raisins or dried cranberries) to cooked greens (like spinach) or rice and grain dishes, or serve fruit or a fruit salad for dessert. Poaching or baking fruit can make a dessert special, with very few added calories!
In most parts of the country, some fruits are seasonal so you may have to choose from different varieties. Variety can be important because different fruits provide different amounts of important vitamins and nutrients. The following tips may be helpful when choosing fruit:
- Choose a variety of fruits each day
- Eat citrus fruits, melons, and berries regularly—these are rich in vitamin C
- Eat fresh fruits as often as you can. Try to avoid fruits that are canned or frozen in heavy syrups and sweetened fruit juices
- Choose fresh fruit instead of juice whenever possible. Fresh fruit has fewer calories and more fiber than juice
- Drink juices that are 100% fruit juice and do not have a lot of added water and sugars
FRUIT JUICES VS FRUIT DRINKS AND SMOOTHIES
It is important to know the difference between fruit juice and a fruit drink. Many fruit drinks are mostly water, sugar, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. Some fruit drinks have added vitamin C and may include some real fruit juice, but usually in small amounts. It is important to read the label.
How can you ensure you are choosing juice and not a juice drink? Look at the label first: anything called "drink," "beverage," or "cocktail," is not 100% fruit juice. Punches may contain no fruit at all!
Smoothies can be a delicious way to get fruit in your diet, but many have added sugars. Look for smoothies made with whole fruit. You can make healthful smoothies at home. Search the internet for some low-calorie smoothie ideas or experiment and create your own by mixing different fruits with low-fat yogurt.