Friday, February 18, 2011

I Heart Fruit, Straight Up from Kindergarten

Fruit Heart from my little Kindergartner
My 5 year old daughter brought this drawing home yesterday from school. It may be a bit hard to make out, but it's a pink heart surrounding a fruit bowl. Before I could ask her what it was about, she excitedly reported that they were having a contest to name the school's salad bar and that she decided it to make this, because "I L-O-V-E all the fruits!" Wow, even if I didn't spend all day trying to promote healthy family eating, I think I would be bursting with pride.

I would like to take all the credit for my kid loving fruit, but remember she's the "picky one." So I dare not or I might jinx myself and we'll be back to mac and cheese requests every night. Really, though, I think kids naturally love fruit and simple exposure to good, fresh, in-season fruit will convince most kids to eat it with joy. We as parents (and educators at school) have to decide that fresh fruit is a worthwhile snack than can be available all the time, despite its slightly higher cost and perishable nature.

We have a rule in our house The fruit bowl is always open.  I try to have 2 or 3 big bowls of fruit out on the counter in easy access all the time. Honestly it disappears. Standards are bananas, apples, and, now, clementines; I keep washed grapes in a big bowl in the fridge. For dessert, we'll sometimes have harder to prepare fruit like mango, pineapple, or last night, we had starfruit, which tastes a bit like kiwi, but in a really cool shape. My kids also love berries and whipped cream, which is still a healthy dessert option. The fruit balances out the whipped cream by far!
Starfruit, cool shape.

The biggest complaint I hear about fruit is the cost. Fresh fruit can be expensive. But really, if you compared fruit to most cookies or pre-packaged snacks, they are very comparable in price. Most cookies are at least 3 or 4 dollars a box; if you cost out the packaged snacks, most are 50 cents or $1 a piece. Somehow it's OK for a cookie pack to cost this much, but an apple at 75 cents is too expensive? Really, we have to change our mind set. Reducing packaged foods is the real way to cut a grocery bill, and sticking with fresh fruits and vegetables often will end up being comparable in cost, or even cheaper, and much healthier to boot.

Fruit is perishable, though, and I understand that busy parents who go shopping only once a week don't want to throw good money away. Below I have some tips for buying and storing fruit, and plus ideas for getting your child to eat more of it!

Ten Tips for Buying, Storing and Eating Fruit:
1. Buy fruit in varying stages of ripeness, if you can. Ideally, some fruit will be ready the day you buy it, and some fruit will ripen over the week, so that you and your kids can eat the best fruit as it becomes ripe.
2. If freshness is waning but the fruit is still good, stick it in the fridge. This will help it keep another couple of days.
3. Don't forget about fruit in the fridge! Since the kids may not see it to grab it, you may have to remember to cut it up and serve as snacks, or with breakfast.
3. In general, fruit keeps better unwashed. Teach your kids to give it a rinse before eating.
4. Use an apple corer. For some reason, fruit slices are much more enjoyable for snacking. Once I bought an apple corer, my kids' apple consumption doubled! Also keep the skin on because it has lots of vitamins. If the apple is cored, a skin hater can still just eat the inside, though half the time, my daughter still eats the whole slice, skin and all.
5. Slightly damaged fruit can be saved to use in smoothies or in fruit sauce. I cut out the brown parts and either freeze or, if I have enough, I throw in a pot to make sauce for pancakes. One or two apples or pears with a little water and sugar can make a quick and delicious sauce to be used for a weekend pancakes.
6. Many fresh fruits can be frozen at home. If strawberries are on sale, you can buy two packages and freeze one. They don't taste quite as good defrosted, but they are still good for you and can be used frozen in smoothies or thawed over cereal or in a fruit dessert.
7. Figure out the fruits that your kids like and always get them. Fruit should be like milk and bread, something you always get. Make it a new habit. Don't get stuck thinking your kid doesn't like fruit just because they don't like the red delicious apples at the cafeteria. (In case you didn't know, red delicious apples mostly stink; they are the biggest misnomer in the fruit world!) Gala apples are kid favorites, so are golden delicious, but there are lots of other varieties to explore.
8. Add new fruits every once in a while to expand their interest. Right now, there are lots of choices in citrus, so try some varieties of oranges that you haven't before. Tangelos and blood oranges can be amazing and you may be surprised that kids actually like the sour-sweet combination. (There are some popular candies on the market that exploit this.)
9. Fruit is best when it is local and in-season. In season fruit tends to be cheaper and taste the best. But in the winter time, it may not be possible to only eat locally, and still actually eat fruit. As a mom and as someone who promotes healthy eating, I am still in favor of eating fruit year around.
10. Increase the times you give fruit to your child. Fruit can be served with breakfast, packed in lunches, and offered for dessert. It's not just an in-between snack.

More great resources for learning more and making eating fruit and veggies fun!
Today I Ate a Rainbow Kit This kit that encourages your kid to get eat the colors of the rainbow, everyday.
The Produce Geek: Sign up for weekly newsletter on what to eat now.
Fruits and Veggies More Matters website has lots of tips and ideas for increasing the number of fruits and veggies in your life.

3 comments:

  1. so encouraging, true, and informative! don't forget that fruit in the fridge (oh, poor shriveled grapes) and fruit smoothies with yogurt or fruit smash on pancakes .. all great ideas. it is a mind set that packaged food is cheaper or easier than fresh options.

    who knows? maybe the next craze will be home made vegie crisps with spices to replace chips! (buy that kale!)

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  2. Yeah lovely and cool shape of Star fruit.really its fruits healthy and tested. nice fruits details shared in the post thanks

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  3. Wow beautiful painting i loved that and i think very very lovely your heart of little Kindergartner. Interesting this post and nice story shared in the post

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