Start With Fruit

To continue the journey to healthy eating with kids we are going to talk about using fruit to replace some of the unhealthy and unnecessary sweets in their diet. Most children like fruit. Fruits are colorful, nutritious, come packaged with their own sugar, and are very versatile for meal and snack planning purposes.

Let’s start with a medical truth. Populations whose diet consists of whole foods develop very little chronic disease. This means your kids will be much healthier eating apples than eating sweetened applesauce out of a plastic snack cup. This does not mean you can’t dress fruit up some of the time. My kids (all in their 30’s now) still love apple sandwiches. This is a great substitute for packaged sweets. Start with a great apple (Jazz, Braeburn, Pink Lady). Wash and take thin slices off two sides all the way to the core. You are left with two “sticks” that are automatically kid sized. Use the slices for your “bread” and spread peanut butter on one, topped with another to make a sandwich. You can add a few raisins or a chopped date to that or even a couple of chocolate chips.

Dried fruits are another sweet substitute that no pantry should be without, especially households with children. Even big box stores have really moist dried apricots, cherries, blueberries and figs that take us out of the raisin rut. Mix a couple of choices with some sunflower seeds or nuts (or both), and Kashi Cinnamon Squares for a great trail mix. The good news about dried fruit is that it is very filling and that homemade trail mix is full of fiber, minerals and protein.

Smoothies are always an option and generally popular with kids. This is a great place to use frozen fruit if you are on a budget. Frozen berries and peaches are much cheaper than fresh. You can make one smoothie at a time if you like. It should be a no waste endeavor. One cup of fruit and ½ cup of ice in a blender (2 tsp sugar or less if fruit is not sweet) is all you need for a kid friendly fruit drink. Another variation is 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit, ¼ cup Greek yogurt, 1 TBSP sugar and ½ cup ice blended well is a great shake. Sweetening with apple or orange juice are good options, but remember, sugar is sugar. The difference is that honey, fruit juices, jams all have very satisfying tastes. If you love a taste there is more mileage gained with a smaller amount.
We could write volumes on fruit. This is a small installment and we will be including many future Kids’ Corner columns on this topic. In the meantime, be creative and adventurous. Let your children have a hand in shopping for new fruit adventures as well as the preparation for meals and snacks.