Kids are much more likely to want the fatty, sugary treats they see on TV than a handful of grapes or a bowl of sliced strawberries. But wise parents know that “an apple a day” isn’t just a slogan: fruit is essential to kids’ health.
Why Eat Fruit
Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories. They’re also cholesterol-free. Fruit also provides critical nutrients:
- Bananas, prunes, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe and honeydew melon are rich in potassium, which young bodies need for normal heart rhythm and strong muscles.
- Fruit provides fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol and lower the risk for heart disease. Fiber also helps with digestion and helps you feel full with fewer calories.
- Many fruits provide vitamin C, which is critical to the growth and repair of body tissue. Vitamin C also helps heal cuts, and keeps teeth and gums healthy.
So how do you get kids to opt for fruit over junk food? Keep these ideas in mind:
- What they see is often what they’ll do. Demonstrate good eating habits by eating a variety of fruits yourself. Your kids will probably do the same.
- Leave fruit in places where kids are likely to go when they want a snack. Keep a bowl filled with a variety of fresh fruits in the kitchen or family room, or fill baggies with sliced fruit and store in the refrigerator.
- Make fruit smoothies with fruit juices or fresh fruit, ice cubes and yogurt. Fruits such as oranges, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches and mangoes make great smoothies.
- Add fruits to the foods your kids already like. For instance, top their cereal with sliced bananas, strawberries or peaches, or add apple slices or raisins to peanut butter sandwiches.
- Serve warmed peanut butter as a dip for fruit: Warm it in the microwave for about 30 seconds and serve it with apple slices or other fresh fruits.
- Serve yogurt as a dip for fresh fruits.
- Use puréed fruits in baked goods and desserts. For instance, make fruit breads using bananas, pears or apples.