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dear joan,
I don't get fruit in my diet every day. Is there a good substitute?

-- forgetful with fruit


dear forgetful,

Fruits are a naturally sweet way to get necessary amounts of vitamin A (from cantaloupe, apricots, mango) and vitamin C (from watermelon, grapefruit, oranges), potassium (from bananas, dates, dried apricots, prunes) and fiber (apples, cherries, strawberries, figs, dates).

You could also get these nutrients from many of foods in the vegetable group, but it's better not to eliminate one food group in favor of another. Here's why: Fruits (and vegetables and other plant foods) contain substances called phytochemicals, which help fight against certain chronic diseases such cancer and heart disease. Eating a WIDE variety of foods from ALL the food groups will help ensure that your diet is at its working (and fighting) best.

Here's the good news: You don't have to eat a TON of fruit every day. In fact, it's recommended that you eat a mere three to five servings of fruit a day (a serving is a medium size piece of fruit, 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit, or 3/4 cup of fruit juice).

This may not be as hard as you may think: A six-ounce cup of OJ in the morning will have you a third of the way to meeting your minimum daily fruit needs. Make sure that the juice you drink is 100 percent juice and not a juice "drink" or "punch" that punches out more sugar than juice. BUT, don't drink yourself into juice oblivion either. Work some pieces of fruit into your day to get the fiber that most juices don't have. If you're a juice hound, try mixing a small amount of juice with sparkling water as a refresher.

If oranges and apples make you yawn, be more adventurous. Royal Gala or Braeburn apples can be a crispy change of pace. Clementines beat out regular oranges four-to-one in my house. Kiwis are as sweet as they are green. Fresh strawberries and blueberries are truly a treat: They may seem a little pricey at times, but compared to a bag of upscale cookies, they're a nutritional bargain. Sneak in a serving of fruit by heaping berries on top of your low-fat frozen yogurt or morning cereal. If slicing and dicing aren't in your schedule, buy a ready-made fruit salad packed in juice. Or try dried fruit, which is effortless.

Another tip: Serve fruit with your meals. Chopped apples, raisins, and pears are terrific in tuna or chicken salad, with pork, or in chicken stir-fry. Fruit salsas that are made with kiwi, oranges, apples, mangoes, or papayas are absolutely fabulous on chicken and fish. You meals will be as sweet as dessert.

Stay Healthy,

Joan

Last updated: May, 2005