My Grandpa used to say raisins are ‘natures sweets’; indeed I think this is true of all fruit. The succulent colors catch our attention, the plump roundness and firm skin invite us to tuck in and enjoy. Nature has designed for us the ideal treat, perfectly formed, delightful to the eye and delicious on the tongue.
In addition to all the obvious enticements, fruit is packed full of nutrition. The sweetness that invites us to eat more (and more!) is a deliberate ploy. We are meant to fill up on these treats while they are available, storing nutrients in our cells for leaner times. The red strawberry that practically screams ‘eat me!’ has been designed by nature to appeal to us in every way so that while our minds enjoy their taste, our bodies enjoy their goodness.
As well as being as wholesome, fruit is extremely convenient. In its most natural form, hanging from the bush or tree, it couldn’t be easier; simply reach out, pick and eat. No packaging, cooking or preparation required. Perfection.
The summer time is the perfect time to introduce or increase fruit into your child’s diet. The fruit is fresh and so packed full of vitamins and flavor, it is at its sweetest and most appealing. An additional benefit is the hydration fruit provides, unlike artificial foods that draw water out of cells, fruit hydrates and cleanses, taking toxins out of the body and strengthening the systems at a time when children are using up lots of energy on outside activities and growth spurts.
Fruit contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that are crucial to growing healthy cells, bones and brains. We are designed to eat it and eat it we must, but it certainly doesn’t need to feel like a chore. With a little tweaking most fruits can be made appealing to children.
Here are a few tips that have worked well for our family…
- As they say ‘the first bite is with the eye’ and providing a plate that looks attractive will immediately aid your cause. I like to mix several different fruits on a plate to give it a visual appeal, this also avoids overwhelming a child with one food that they potentially have an aversion to. If there are four or five fruits on the plate there is likely to be something that they are willing to try and they will often accidentally eat something they thought they didn’t like!
- Putting fruit on kebab sticks or providing unusual cutlery such as chop sticks or sporks can add a party feeling to the occasion. After all there is nothing wrong with some fun at mealtimes!
- I often use cookie cutters to turn a slice of watermelon into all sorts of fantastical creatures, children who will turn their nose up at a regular slice will often happily tuck into a star or snowman with no complaint. A box of watermelon shapes can provide busy children with a quick hit of energy as well as the freshness of a cool drink, the perfect antidote to overexcitement or draining hot weather.
Limiting artificial sweeteners is important for children as they affect their health on many levels, this also has the added bonus of allowing the palate to appreciate natural sweetness and flavor. But there are also lots of natural sweeteners that can give a fruit plate a bit of a ‘boost’, especially when transitioning from more artificial foods to pure fruit snacks.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Maple syrup and lemon juice drizzled liberally will give any plate some zing
- A small bowl of honey for dipping will turn any fruit into a caramel treat, adding chopped nuts or raisins as ‘sprinkles‘ makes it even more fun
- Simple plain yoghurt with a swirl of honey or low sugar jam usually disappears very quickly
- An Indian style raita, made from plain yogurt and chopped mint, is extremely refreshing at the end of a hot day
- Whipped coconut milk with added vanilla is a decadent and dairy free treat that can replace ice cream or whipping cream (this is Mummy’s favorite)
- Peanut butter or cream cheese can provide a lovely hit of protein and work well with fruit or vegetables
- And finally a delicious, but healthy, chocolate sauce option (ok maybe this is Mummy’s favorite) the recipe is as follows:
1/2 cup of coconut oil melted gently in a double boiler
1/4 cup of raw cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons of honey
Mix and enjoy! This is a runny sauce, much like a maple syrup in consistency, for something thicker you could use less oil or replace cocoa powder with dark chocolate chips.
So whether it is a bowl of grapes to snack on during a TV show, a fruit kebab at snack time, a cup of summer berries at the park or a side order of apple slices with dinner, fruit is the perfect seasonal food. Package free and filled with goodness—with fruit along for the ride, life is always a little sweeter.