I spent last week in Atlanta talking with like minded people about the scary statistics related to childhood obesity and diabetes. One of the pet peeves that came up from several parents who are trying to get their own kids to eat healthy is the oh so popular fruit cocktail.
You know, the little individual cups of silky soft canned fruit in day-glo colors and syrupy sweetness. It’s popular with kids, parents, schools and day cares all over the country. It also comes in giant, feed an army, sized cans that make it easy to feed to large groups as a fruit serving.
The problem with canned fruit cocktail is that it’s full of added sugar and actually very low in nutrients compared to fresh or frozen fruit. Oh, and that added sugar? It might not seem like a big deal in a little fruit cup, but when you think about how much sugar American children are eating in addition to the empty carbs that cause rapid blood sugar spikes and drops, it’s actually not so surprising that childhood diabetes is so prevalent.
Check out this crazy infographic on sugar, showing some scary statistics on the sugar averages in our country. For instance, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar day. Yet the average child in America has 32 teaspoons of sugar a day!!!
Now, let’s move away from the scary details an into a solution.
Make your own giant batch of healthy fruit salad! I know, sounds too easy right? That’s because it really is that easy. I’m perhaps a bit spoiled because I’ve known about this little tip for years. Why you ask?
Because my mother is the queen of fruit salad.
It’s true, whether she’s hosting a party, sending my father to work with a treat for the office, attending a potluck, or just having the kids over for dinner, it’s almost a guarantee that she’ll serve some kind of fruit salad.
When we were kids, so many of her friends and relatives would lament that their husbands and kids never ate fresh fruit. “I buy the prettiest fruit and put it in a nice bowl on the table and it just goes bad. No one touches it!”
She would gently tell them that while fruit bowls make great centerpieces, and subjects for still life art, they are not so appetizing to people who aren’t already avid fruit consumers.
Even kitties aren’t sure what to do with a giant bowl of fruit!
She’d go with them and their kids to a produce stand and tell the kids to pick out any fruit they wanted. We’d all run through grabbing plums and kiwis, grapes and nectarines, apples in three different colors. As the basket filled up with produce the other mother would shake her head and sigh at all the beautiful fruit she was sure would go to waste.
Once we got back to our house my mom would chop up all the fruit into bite sized pieces. Then she’d either mix it together with pineapple juice to make a salad, or arrange it on a giant platter and put it on the table with tiny little decorative forks.
Either way, the entire basket worth of fruit would be gone within a couple of hours of playtime.
You can mix up the fruit varieties depending on what’s in season. Just be sure to stick to these five simple rules.
- Use at least three or four different textures of fruit. This makes the salad exciting with every bite. You need a crunchy fruit like apples, a semi soft fruit like whole grapes, and a soft fruit like peaches. Just be careful with really soft fruit like bananas. If you want to put bananas in your fruit salad just add it to individual servings, not the whole batch.
- Use at least three different colors. I went with orange, pink, purple and white. This helps to make the salad visually exciting so people want to eat it.
- Use a juice high in vitamin C to help preserve the salad throughout the week. I prefer pineapple because that’s what my mom always uses. Growing up in Hawaii, you know we always have Dole pineapple juice on hand! You could try orange juice as well, just make sure to use 100% pure juice.
- Make the fruit a little smaller than bite sized. Whole strawberries are beautiful, but rarely can you fit an entire one in your mouth. You want every bite to have a variety of fruit so try and chop it to penny or dime sized pieces.
- Store in the refrigerator. This will help it to last the whole week, unless your family eats it all in one night!
By the way, in the recipe below I call one cup a serving size, but that is actually two servings of fruit. I find we can never stop at just half a cup though! Does your family like fruit salad?
- 2 apples
- 3 peaches
- 3 plums or pluots
- 50 grapes
- 12 oz pineapple juice (I use 2 6oz cans)
- Chop the apples, peaches and plums into small pieces, discarding the cores and pits. Place in a large bowl.
- Add whole grapes and pour pineapple juice over everything. Toss to mix well and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Approximate cost/serving: I actually got all the fruit in my organic Bountiful Basket that week. So even using organic fruit it still came out to just $5 for us. That’s about 83 cents a serving.
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: Yes to both and vegan as well.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 3mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 4gSugar: 31gProtein: 2g
Nutrition information is an estimate only.