15 Ways to Power up with Fruit

Posted: August 26, 2016

Is fruit the forgotten food group? Has fruit fallen out of the food groups? Find out why fruit intake in the U.S. has sunk so low, and 15 ways to help you and your family power up with fruit!
image from USDA's MyPlate

image from USDA's MyPlate

It seems almost unbelievable to me, as a registered dietitian and fruit lover, that only 25% of our entire country eats at least the minimum recommended intakes of fruit, per the US Dietary Guidelines. Only the 1-8 year old age categories meet the recommendations by consuming their 1 ½ cup equivalents. However, no more than ¼- ½ cup is recommended to be consumed as juice per day for any age group. Unfortunately some consume more, which can lead to excess weight gain and cavities. Ages 9 + females and 9-13 year old males are recommended only 1 ½ - 2 cups per day, and ages 14+ males 2-2 ½ cups. Yet all these ages fall woefully short, averaging ½ -1 cup per day. In particular, girls ages 14-18 and all adults ages 19-50 consume the lowest amounts. So what’s going on? Why are 75% of the US population missing out on this essential and delicious food group?

We know that fruits provide essential nutrients such as vitamins A C, folate, as well as many antioxidants, several minerals like potassium, fiber, and water. Thus eating the recommended servings (along with vegetables) helps protect and prevent against many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity. Fruits are naturally low in calories, sodium, and fat (except avocados). All of these nutrients are extremely important during periods of growth, especially during pregnancy and childhood.

Here are some ideas to power up you or your family’s fruit intake. I do mean power since fruit contains mainly carbohydrates, our body’s preferred source of energy. If you eat the whole fruit (as opposed to juice or “fruit drink” that contains little percent fruit), which includes the skin, pulp, and seeds if possible, then the fiber will help fill you up (on less calories since we don’t digest fiber). This is important for weight control, heart health, and healthy intestines.

Roadblocks to Fruit Consumption & Powering Up Your Fruit Intake

Cost & Waste Issues

1. Buy fruit in season - check the Seasonal Produce Guide from PA Preferred by the PA Department of Agriculture.  Most fruit is in season June-fall in PA.

2. Out of season - Purchase frozen, dried, or canned in fruit juice when out of season for less cost.

3. Share larger amounts - If you buy a larger watermelon, or packages of fruit, cut up and share with family or friends.

4. Preserve - Some larger amounts can be frozen (eg. berries) individually on a tray, then frozen in packages for later use. More home food preservation ideas. Reduce purchases of less nutrient dense foods to save more money.

Preference for sweet or salty snacks

5. Sweet package - Serve cut-up or portioned fruit as snacks, prepackage into small containers and pack into lunches, or for an easy-to-grab after-school or work sweet treat.

6. For salt lovers - combine dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, blueberries) with nuts and seeds. Or try sliced apples with a tablespoon of peanut butter.

Hard to peel, cut, takes time

7. Wash only when ready to eat. Eat the skins if possible. Scrub melon skins under running water, cut & quarter with a sharp knife. Scoop out from rind. Only cut up the rest if you will eat within a few days, otherwise wrap and cut when needed.

What are ways to serve in meals?

8. Salads - Serve cut up grapes, apples, oranges, berries, or melons in a tossed salad, or within the salad with a protein (beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, and poultry) as the main dish. Combine different colored fruits into a fruit salad.

9. With Cheese - serve as an appetizer with cheese and crackers. Fruit and cottage cheese makes a refreshing breakfast, lunch or dinner when served with crackers and a tossed salad on hot days.

10. Sauces - fruit can also be made into sauces for meats (pear, apple, mango, pineapple).

11. Add to grains - like rice pilaf, couscous, quinoa, whether dried or cooked.

12. Breakfast - add fresh, or dried fruit to cereal, plain yogurt (much cheaper than buying yogurt with fruit and less sugar).

Drinks with fruit? 

13. Besides limiting juice to ½ cup per day for ages 3+, add 1 cup whole fruit to 1 cup milk or plain yogurt to make smoothies with 1 cup ice (makes 2-3 servings). Add vegetables (½ -1 cup kale, spinach, carrots, etc), and vanilla or ginger for a healthy sweet treat makes 3-4 servings).

14. Add 3 slices lemon, lime, orange, or any of your favorite fresh fruit to plain or slightly carbonated water for a refreshing taste and 0-10 calories per cup.

Desserts with fruit?

15. I think we all have family favorites here (fruit crisps and cobblers come to mind). To reduce the calories, reduce the sugar by 1/3 cup-1/2 cup. In some recipes, you can increase the fruit and reduce the sugar as well. One of my favorites is baked apples, pears, or peaches. Remove the core or pit, and add raisins, oatmeal, and drizzle a little maple syrup into the center. Bake or microwave until the fruit is soft.

I hope I've inspired you to try more fruit in your meals and snacks. Set a goal: buy two new fruits a week or 2-3 fruits a week you can add to a meal or snack. For more ideas, check our website for our upcoming programs in your area, or look under News or Resources for more recipes and ideas for fruits. See also ChooseMyPlate fruit tips for more yummy fruit ideas.

Contact Information

Lynn James, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
  • Nutrition, Food Safety & Health Senior Educator
Phone: 570-556-4744