The Magic of Fruit at Meals

Fruit kabobs
Fruit is a great way to add nutrition to meals. Jill Castle, MS, RDN

If you have a typical family like I do, you probably have some antics going on at the meal table. Little Joey complains about the main course, while sister Sarah refuses to eat the vegetables. Before you know it, another child is begging for more pasta even though she has a plateful of food in front of her. And this doesn’t even account for the child who has to avoid certain foods because of a food allergy.

Dinnertime drama may have you catering to a food whim and leave you looking for a magical moment at the meal table-- a time of harmony when everyone is getting along and actually eating the food you serve.

While I don’t believe that food alone can really transform your family meal (there’s a lot that goes into creating positive family meals, such as your feeding style, feeding practices and the pleasantness of the environment), I do believe that one food has the power to transform the meal table from chaos and food refusal to agreeableness and eating well.

What food has this kind of power?

Fruit. And here's why.

The Benefits of Fruit

For one, kids generally like fruit. They like to eat it and will eat it, often without much effort on your part. If you’re not serving fruit routinely with meals, it’s a good time to start. Include fruit on your menu for most, if not all, meals. It can be very simple, from including a bowl of whole fruit on your table to cutting up fruit, or peeling it so that it is easy for kids to eat.

Fruit also tends to be a safe option for kids and adults with food allergies, as they are low allergenic foods. Unless you have an allergy to a specific type of fruit, or a family of fruit, as with an oral allergy syndrome, it’s easy to avoid the allergen while still having quite a spread of fruit options from which to choose.

Secondly, in this world of getting kids to eat healthy, and specifically, eat more vegetables, fruit can help lighten the pressure to eat vegetables, particularly on kids who aren’t fans of them. You should still offer vegetables at meals (after all, exposing children repeatedly to veggies is half of the battle), but you can rest and relax knowing that your child is getting a source of good nutrition from fruit. The best part of adding fruit to the menu may be that you skip the urge to push your child to eat veggies or bargain with your child by enticing him with dessert.

Lastly, fruit offers important nutrients that many children are missing out on, such as potassium and fiber. In general, American kids are lacking fiber and potassium food sources from their daily dietary intake, so offering a source of these nutrients as much as possible helps them get closer to their nutritional needs.

Adding a fruit option to your meals is a super simple tweak to the eating routine that can have a big payoff to your child’s health and even perhaps the happiness factor at your meal table!

Here are four fun ways to serve fruit with your meals:

  • Peel it. Peel the skin off of oranges and clementines and cut the rinds off melons. Segment the citrus fruit or chunk the melons.
  • Skewer it. Take those chunks of melon, fresh strawberries and other fruit and place them on a skewer. Kids love the presentation of fruit kabobs!
  • Smoothie pops. Throw some frozen fruit, milk and yogurt into a blender as if you were making a smoothie. Pour the smoothie mixture into popsicle molds and freeze. Serve with dinner, as a snack, or as a dessert.
  • Make a salad. When I have fruit that’s on its last leg, I clean and chop it up into a big salad. It can be an all-fruit salad, or fruit added to a green salad.

Watch what happens when you add fruit to the menu!

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