Your Kid Is Eating the Wrong Kind of Fruit

Getting kids to eat fruit and veggies can be a struggle. Between flavors, texture issues, and the always mealtime power struggles, making sure Junior gets enough fiber and vitamins can be tough. Fortunately, a new survey shows kids are eating fruit ... or rather, they're drinking it.


Yesterday, the Journal Pediatrics published a study showing that kids between the ages of 2 and 19 are eating about 1.25 cups a day of fruit, which falls within the suggested serving guidelines of 1 to 2 cups. That sounds like good news on the surface, but looking at the breakdown of how, exactly, kids are getting this fruit is less optimal.

According to the initial breakdown of survey results, the leader on the Fruit Scoreboard is apples: About 20 percent of the fruit kids reported eating came in the form of apples. But the second, third, and fourth place results were apple juice, citrus juice, and other juices, respectively. (Bananas trailed in for a solid fifth place.)

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In fact, juices of one variety or another made up more than a third of kids' total fruit consumption. That is a lot of juice. And while if a child has sensory or digestive issues and absolutely refuses to touch a regular apple, banana, or orange, juice is better than nothing. For kids for whom whole fruits are an option, though, juice is missing a lot of the benefits of whole fruits. Juice doesn't offer dietary fiber, and it's digested more quickly (and thus sends a shot of sugar into the bloodstream more rapidly). It's a calorically dense beverage -- a glass of juice contains as much sugar as a soda would -- but doesn't keep kids full for as long as solid foods do, so they're hungry again sooner. And of course it's not great for the teeth; somewhere, dentists are crying as they read these survey results. Or maybe they're calling their accountant and telling them they want to buy that yacht after all.

If your kids won't touch whole fruits, you can always try making them a fruit smoothie instead: yogurt, milk, and frozen fruit plus blender equal a fruit serving option that's nutrient-dense, filling, and still drinkable. (You can find store-bought smoothies too, but check the labels to make sure they're not still loaded down with added sugar.) Otherwise, apples, bananas, melon, and berries are good solid standbys. After all, no one ever said that a cup of apple juice a day would keep the doctor away.


Image via © Chad Johnston/Masterfile/Corbis

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