In today’s Healthy Staples Roundup, we’ll share some things to look for when checking fruit labels and ingredients, where to find your fruits and some additional facts and fun regarding “nature’s candy.”
Should you eat fruit even though it contains sugar and carbs?
We often get asked if fruit should be avoided because of its high sugar and carb content. While fruit, bananas in particular, are often higher in natural sugars and carbs than foods such as vegetables, it doesn’t mean you should avoid them completely.
Like all things in life, moderation is key.
When you enjoy fruit in moderation, the benefits are endless. They're an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals, and they’re high in fiber, which is vital for digestive health. Fruit also provides a wide range of health-boosting antioxidants, including flavonoids.
What can you eat with fruit to fuel your body and feel satisfied?
If you’ve taken our Healthy Snacks Made Simple course, then you’ve heard us say this before! The ideal snack combination contains three key nutrients: protein, fat and fiber. Try pairing fruit (fiber) with a healthy fat or protein, like an apple with almond butter, a banana and peanut butter or a pear and cheese.
By consuming meals or snacks that contain a MIXTURE of all three, your body feels satisfied after eating for several hours. Now you'll be able to focus on what's important, rather than daydreaming about more food.
Is it always necessary to purchase organic fruit?
In short, no, it’s not always necessary to purchase organic. Some fruits and vegetables have a higher level of pesticide use than others, making them more contaminated and worth the inflated price tag that comes along with organic foods.
A general way to judge which fruits and vegetables may or may not have a high level of chemicals and pesticides is by considering the outer peel or skin. Fruits such as bananas or pineapples are less likely to have insects penetrate through the thick peel or skin, so the likelihood of pesticide use is much less than in a strawberry (meaning organic isn’t as essential).
This is where the The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists may help you. Understanding these lists can help you keep costs down when trying to choose organic versus non-organic fruits and vegetables.
These lists break down the items we should try to buy organic when we can, from fresh produce to canned or jarred alternatives. For example, apples are on the dirty dozen list, so we purchase both organic apples and applesauce.
What should you look for on the label when shopping for canned or jarred fruit?
While fresh or frozen fruit is certainly the best option, dried and jarred fruits (like applesauce) can be a really affordable and manageable way to add more fruit to your diet. Our biggest piece of advice when looking for fruit products is to completely ignore the marketing labels on the front of the packaging (no sugar added, in fruit juice, etc.). Remember, these words don’t tell you anything about what’s actually used to make that food. Instead, find the ingredient list, then read it.
- Avoid fruits canned in heavy or light syrups or in juice concentrates; instead, choose fruits that are canned in their own juices or water.
- Avoid dried or dehydrated fruits that are sweetened, coated with sugars or have added oils.
- Basically, the only ingredients that should be listed are the actual fruit, its natural juices and water.
Where to find your fruits:
- When possible, eat local fruits, often found at local farms, farmers’ markets and orchards. Why? Because locally grown produce is much fresher than produce that’s been shipped in from lord knows where, which means its more flavorful and more nutritious!
- Frozen fruits are a great option when seasonal fruits are not available.
- Unsweetened canned fruits in their own natural juices or water are another option when seasonal fruits are not available.
- Whether local or store-bought, organic or not, always check the ingredients!
Some Fun “Fruity” Facts
- Infusing your water with sliced fruit is a fantastic way to flavor your water and make it more appealing.
- Grilling fruit (literally grilling it on the grill) is a fabulous way to add flavor to fish and chicken dishes or to enjoy as a sweet caramelized dessert.
- Bananas and grapes are especially high in natural sugars and carbs, so they should be eaten in limited amounts.
- Did you know dried and dehydrated fruits don’t eliminate or reduce the sugars from the whole fruit? Instead, the sugars are concentrated into a smaller package. If you eat these little sweets, keep them to a minimum. You don’t want to end up consuming the same amount of sugar in a quick handful of raisins than you would from eating a large bowl of grapes.
- For added nutrients, leave the skin on when eating fruit.
- Make eating local foods fun! The next time you have a free day, go visit a local orchard, market or farm to take a tour or talk with the farmer or staff. You’d be surprised how neat it is to actually see where your fruit comes from! Many places even allow you to pick your own seasonal fruit. It’s often fresher and cheaper than buying pre-picked and packaged fruits.
To learn more about real-food basics, check out the rest of our Healthy Staples!
Struggle to Plan, Choose and Prepare Nutritious Snacks?
We created this guide to help you snack smart the fast (+ delicious) way! Whether a mid-morning food craving strikes or your kids are scavenging the cupboards after school, preparing delicious and nutritious snacks shouldn’t have to be complicated.