Monday, June 14, 2010

Where's the fruit?

You have probably heard the message that most people do not eat enough fruit.  Depending on how many calories you eat in a day, the MyPyramid recommendation for fruit can be anywhere from 2- 3 1/2 cups per day.  The majority of Americans do not eat this much fruit every day, but I believe that many people are trying to do better. 

One thing that makes it difficult for many people is the misleading packaging on many food products.  Consider "fruit snacks" for example. On more than one occasion, I have observed people at the store who are stopping by with their child to pick up snacks for their baseball team, soccer team, etc.  Often these parents will tell the child that they need to choose fruit snacks because they are "healthier". When I hear this it really makes me sad.  The food companies have done a great job of convincing people that fruit snacks actually contain fruit!  In reality, they are more like candy than fruit.  Most contain concentrates of nutrient-poor juices such as apple and pear and then they add more sugar and artificial colors.  Some throw in a few vitamins to make their nutrition label look a bit better, but fortified sugar is still just sugar!

What are some other products that people mistakenly think contain a lot of fruit, but really don't?  How about toaster pastries?  The packages of these pastries often claim "made with real fruit", but how much is really in there?  One toaster pastry averages about 200 calories, but really only about 2% of those calories are coming from fruit!  You are also getting 6 grams of fat (some brands even contain unhealthy trans fats), 16 grams of sugar, 160 mg of sodium and less than 1 gram of fiber.  That is a lot of extras that you don't need if you are really just trying to get the nutrients from fruit.  On the other hand, if you ate the equivalent 200 calories worth of dried apples, you would get 7 grams of fiber (and very little sodium, no fat and no added sugar). 

Bottom line:  fruit snacks and toaster pastries are a "sometimes"  (or "whoa") food.  Most of the time choose fresh fruit, canned fruit without added sugar, and unsweetened frozen fruits to meet your daily fruit quota.  Fruits such as grapes, apples, and bananas can be an easy and portable snack.  Dried fruit as part of a trail mix is even less perishable and is easy to carry around on a busy day.  Making smoothies can also be a great way to help children get more fruit, and you can control the ingredients yourself (thereby preventing added sugar)!       

No comments:

Post a Comment