by Sue Radd
Real fruit is being displaced from kids’ diets by packaged snacks, soft drinks, and junk foods, all of which lead to early chronic diseases.
An analysis of the 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that almost half the kids polled ate afterschool snacks that contain high saturated fat, such as cookies, cakes, and pastries, and at least 30 percent of their daily calorie intake came from these processed foods!
Yet many of these children didn’t achieve their daily target for whole fruit intake, with only 1 percent of 14- to 16-year-olds getting enough, not counting juice! Surprisingly, fruit intake tends to decline as children get older.
Why fruit is the perfect snack
Fruit is nature’s best after-school snack and dessert food. It helps protect kids from asthma, constipation, excess weight, high blood pressure, diabetes, and later, heart attack/stroke. For example, one U.S. study found that eating burgers three times a week was linked with a higher risk of asthma, whereas an increased intake of fruit, vegetables, and omega-3 fats was associated with a significantly reduced risk of asthma.
How much do they need?
Encourage your kids to eat fruit every day. Following are the minimum amounts they need for good health. (A serving is one medium piece, two small fruits, or one cup of cut-up fruit.)
age daily requirement
2–3 1 serving
4–8 1.5 servings
9–18 2 servings
What parents can do
The best way to influence your kids is to be a good role model. Teach them about the importance of fruit, and introduce them to different varieties in season. Studies show that it can take up to ten repeated exposures for a new fruit to be accepted.
Buy smaller sized fruits that fit into a lunchbox, or cut larger fruits into small pieces with a melon baller, pear cutter, or knife. If you make it easy for them, they’ll eat it.
Freeze grapes, pineapple chunks, and fruit skewers for hot summer days, and add whole fruit to smoothies.
Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat to Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See http://www.sueradd.com for more nutrition information.