Healthy Children - February 2016

Build a Healthy Plate with Fruits

Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children 

Did you know offering fruit is a quick-and-easy way to make meals and snacks healthier and more colorful?

While most toddlers consume enough fruit, most children 4 years and older do not. You can help by offering different fruits on your menu. Offering a variety of fruits during the week can:

  • Teach healthy eating habits children will use for life.
  • Add color, texture, and flavor to children’s plates.
  • Give children the vitamins and minerals they need to grow and play.
  • Promote a proper digestion, help children feel full, and maintain a healthy weight by providing dietary fiber.

What types of fruits should I offer?

  • Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits are all great choices. Introduce kids to the whole rainbow of fruit choices - each fruit has its own unique flavor and nutrients. Providing different choices each day helps children get the nutrition they need.
  • Limit fruit juice. Serve only one ½ cup (4 oz.) serving of 100% juice, once per day. While 100% fruit juice can be party of a healthy diet, it does not contain the dietary fiber found in other forms of fruit.
  • Include good sources of potassium, such as bananas, dried plums, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, nectarines, raspberries, and orange juice. Potassium can help children maintain a healthy blood pressure.

How can I serve fruits and juices with no added sugars?

It is easy for children to get too many added sugars from foods and beverages. The extra calories from these added sugars can make children feel full before they’ve had a chance to get the nutrients they need from other foods. Extra calories from added sugars also make it harder for children to maintain a healthy weight. Since fruits are naturally sweet, it can be easy to get children to eat them without adding sweeteners like sugar, corn syrup, and honey. Here are a few tips:

  • Serve fresh fruit more often than fruit-based desserts, such as fruit pies, cobblers, and crisps.
  • Purchase fruit canned in water or 100% fruit juice instead of syrup. Offer unsweetened applesauce and try sprinkling ground cinnamon on top.
  • Use frozen fruit that does not contain added sugars.
  • Choose 100% fruit juice instead of fruit flavored drinks or soda, including cola, lemon lime, root beer, or orange soda.
  • Offer raisins or other unsweetened dried fruit instead of chewy fruit snacks or strips, fruit drops, candy, or sweets. * Since it is easy to eat a lot of dried fruit in a short time, it is best to serve unsweetened dried fruit in a ¼ cup serving. Eating ¼ cup of dried fruit is like eating ½ cup of fresh fruit.

* Hard fruit chunks, chewy fruit snacks, and certain types of candy pose choking hazards


How can I encourage kids to eat fruits?

It may take time for new foods to be accepted. Kids don’t always eat new foods right away. Here are some ways to get kids excited about fruits:

  • Make food fun and be sure fruits are easy to eat. Create a rainbow salad with a variety of colors of fruits. Add crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, or fresh apples to salad mix or coleslaw. Peel or slice fresh oranges.
  • Have a fruit tasting day. Encourage each child’s family to bring one unique fruit for the group to taste. How about kiwifruit, black grapes, blackberries, pomelo, or lychees?
  • Cook together. Children learn about fruits and vegetables when they help prepare them. Young children can help rinse fruits and make “faces” out of pieces of fruits. Pick kitchen tasks that match children’s abilities: mash bananas, peel some fruits, or mix ingredients for a fruit salad. See the “Edible Art” activity from Team Nutrition’s Community Nutrition Action Kit. http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/Resources/edibleart.pdf
  • Explore the “Grow It, Try It, Like It!” educational kit. Growing fruits, like strawberries, in a garden or container can help increase children’s willingness to taste them. http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/Resources/growit.html
  • Eat fruits and kids will too! They learn from watching you.


Build a Healthy Plate with Fruits - http://www.teamnutrition.usda.gov/library.html