How are Kids Eating Fruit?

Photo credits: flickr/Kelly Sikkema

Photo credits: flickr/Kelly Sikkema

A recent study featured in Pediatrics has addressed just that question. Researchers analyzed data from over 3,000 children ages 2-19 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which took place from 2011-2012. The data revealed that:

  • Whole fruits made up 53% of youth daily fruit intake
  • 100% fruit juice comprised 34% of daily fruit intake
  • Apples, apple juice, citrus juice, and bananas comprise about half of all fruit consumption
  • Nearly 20% of all fruits consumed were apples or apple juice

Not surprisingly, apples are a favorite among American kids. We were pleased to learn that the highest proportion of fruit servings came from whole fruit, but we would like to see whole fruit comprising an even larger fraction children’s daily fruit intake. Whole fruits are a better option than 100% fruit juice because they contain fiber (which children ages 1-3 should get 19 grams of per day), while juice does not.

We know that little ones can be stubborn when it comes to eating whole fruits and vegetables, but there are simple ways to make these nutritious and low-calorie snacks more appealing:

  1. Cut up fruit into bite-sized pieces. Fruits and vegetables are more attractive to young kids when they are cut into pieces. Consider a bowl of whole oranges sitting on the counter vs. a peeled, segmented orange. Which are you more likely to choose? Kids are the same way – a little prep work makes a difference.
  2. Let them pick. Children love to be included in decision-making, and they’re more likely to be interested in eating a fruit they picked out themselves. Bring them along to the farmer’s market or grocery store and ask them which fruits they would like to try.
  3. Model the healthy behavior. Kids learn how to eat from their caregivers. If they see the adults they admire eating fruit, the fruit becomes more appealing to them. You eat a healthy snack, the child eats a healthy snack – everyone wins! This is what our Pledge the Practice, Pass the Policy Initiative is all about: modeling healthy behaviors in institutional settings to change norms among both staff and the families with young children that they serve.

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