Blog

Nutrition, Education, and Motivation that remind us why Plants-Rule.  Supporting a plant-based, whole-foods diet with scientific evidence.  A chef's passion for ingredients with the realistic practicality of a home cook.  These articles offer insight into the benefits of a vegan diet with the humor to support a balanced healthy lifestyle. 

Step Three: Four Fruits a Day, An Easy Change Towards a Healthy, Plant-Based Life

Pop Question:

Would You Rather Eat a Granola Bar or 4 Pieces of Fruit for a Healthy Diet
Bar vs Fruit Healthy Snack Showdown

It's so simple, it's ridiculous.

When you're craving a sweet treat at the end of a meal, a juicy burst of flavor, or a crunchy, crispy snack --- reach for fruit.  Fruit is "Nature's Candy".  It's all-natural, unrefined goodness. It is packed with nutrients like Vitamin C, Potassium, fiber, and even a shot of protein.  It's gluten-free, plant-based, and you can even splurge on organic for less than the cost of fancy granola bars.  

Sadly, though, most of us aren't eating enough of it.  In fact, only 33% of adults are eating fruit 2 or more times a day.  That means almost 2/3 of us are eating just 1 serving a day. 


Melon Fruit Salad: Cut up some cantaloupe, honeydew, and red grapes.  In 5 minutes you can have delicious, healthy snacks for days

Melon Fruit Salad: Cut up some cantaloupe, honeydew, and red grapes.  In 5 minutes you can have delicious, healthy snacks for days

My third, 5-minute “Get Healthy” Simple Step:

Four Fruits a Day

Could you eat: Strawberries at breakfast, an orange at lunch, a banana as an afternoon snack, and an apple with cinnamon for dessert after dinner?  

Or maybe:  Toss some blueberries in your oatmeal, add some pineapple to your salad, snack on a few grapes during the bus ride home, and eat a Frozen Banana Nice Cream at night?

Your goal this week:  Eat 4 Natural, Whole Fresh Fruits Every Day

I've got some tips and tricks to get you started...


Here’s my Ultimate Chef’s Guide: 

New Ideas on how to Cook and Enjoy Fruit

Besides just biting into a fresh apple, there are quite a few options for cooking fruit.  You can stuff and bake those apples, grill some pineapple, or poach some pears.  My experience as a plant-based chef has taught me a few key lessons on basic cooking techniques for fruit:


Roasting or Baking

Skill Level: Intermediate                                  Taste Level: Nervous Seedling

Use on: Harder, sturdier fruits like apples, pears, and peaches

How to do it: Preheat oven to 375.  Use an apple corer or a small paring knife to remove the core, seeds, and pit.   Place the fruit into a baking dish and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle on a teaspoon or so of cinnamon or pumpkin spice mix.  Cover and bake 40 minutes, then remove the cover for another 10-15 minutes.  You want the fruit to be knife-tender and slightly brown on top.

Chef's Tip:  An apple corer makes quick work of baking off a batch of healthy, satisfying fruit treats

Chef's Tip:  An apple corer makes quick work of baking off a batch of healthy, satisfying fruit treats

Chef’s Tips for Ultimate Flavor: You can add extra texture and delicious flavor by stuffing the fruit.  For a quick gluten-free, healthy stuffing, mix: rolled oats, raisins, pecans, and cinnamon. Play with other variations by mixing in dried cherries, chopped dates, walnut pieces, cooked brown rice, nutmeg, and ginger.

Chef's Tip:  Make a quick, healthy stuffing for baked apples by combining gluten-free rolled oats, raisins, pecans, and cinnamon

Chef's Tip:  Make a quick, healthy stuffing for baked apples by combining gluten-free rolled oats, raisins, pecans, and cinnamon

Chef's Baking Tip:  The apples are done baking when a knife easily slides in and out.  You've got a satisfying, warm, delicious dessert ready to go.

Chef's Baking Tip:  The apples are done baking when a knife easily slides in and out.  You've got a satisfying, warm, delicious dessert ready to go.


Chef's Tip for Ultimate Flavor:  Chinese Five Spice flavor poached pears and figs in a red wine sauce for a healthy, fat-free, fruit dessert

Chef's Tip for Ultimate Flavor:  Chinese Five Spice flavor poached pears and figs in a red wine sauce for a healthy, fat-free, fruit dessert

Poaching or Stewing

Skill Level: Intermediate                      

Taste Level: Curious Seedling - Confident Brussel Sprout

Use on: Whole or halved fresh apples, pears, peaches, apricots, and nectarines.  Also great to rehydrate dried fruits like cherries, apricots, and figs.

Chef's Tip:  Add enough liquid to cover just 1/2-inch of the fruit.  Stir or flip the fruit to make sure it even soaks up some of the poaching liquid for healthy, fat-free, delicious flavor

Chef's Tip:  Add enough liquid to cover just 1/2-inch of the fruit.  Stir or flip the fruit to make sure it even soaks up some of the poaching liquid for healthy, fat-free, delicious flavor

How to do it:  To poach fruit, first prepare your fruit by removing any inedible parts (like core, seed, or tough peels).  Place fruit into a wide pan and add enough liquid to come up about 1/2 inch of the bottom of the fruit.  Partially cover and bring to a simmer.  Simmer over low for 10 minutes.  Then, flip the fruit, and simmer another 10 minutes, or until the fruit is tender enough to pass the knife-glide test.  Serve the fruit with the poached liquid.  The only difference between stewing and poaching?  With stewing, you'll add enough liquid to completely cover the fruit and generally cook the fruit longer.  

To make the Ultimate:  Infuse the poaching or stewing liquid with flavor.  Whole Vanilla Beans and a splash of white wine are classic.  A dash of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice is an easy go-to option.  For fancier flavor, try spices like Cardamom, Anise, Cloves, or Chinese Five-Spice.

For more interesting textures, use both dried and fresh fruits.  The dried fruits will plump up as they absorb the poaching liquid, creating delicious "flavor bursts".

Chef's Ultimate Tip:  Fresh pears and dried figs create interesting textures for a healthy, delicious fruit dessert

Chef's Ultimate Tip:  Fresh pears and dried figs create interesting textures for a healthy, delicious fruit dessert


Broiling or Grilling

Skill Level: Intermediate                             Taste Level: Curious Seedling - Confident Brussel Sprout

Use on: Tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, banana; Stone fruits like peaches, plums, and apricots; other fun fruits like apples and grapefruit -- so many options!

Chef's Tip for Fruit Grilling:  Leave pineapple in large planks or spears for easy maneuvering on a hot grill.  Grilling caramelizes the fruit, bringing out natural sweetness

Chef's Tip for Fruit Grilling:  Leave pineapple in large planks or spears for easy maneuvering on a hot grill.  Grilling caramelizes the fruit, bringing out natural sweetness

How to do it:  Basically, you want to heat a grill or your broiler to a "Hi" heat.  Cut your fruit in half and leave in large pieces.  If you're using something like a peach or apple, remove the pit or seeds.  Once your grill is nice and hot, place the fruit on the grill.  Don't touch it!  Let it sear for at least 5 minutes.  This will help the fruit caramelize, bringing out the natural sugars.  It will also help release the fruit, making it easier to flip.  After 5 minutes or so, flip the fruit and grill another 3-5 minutes on the second side.

To broil:  The only difference between broiling and grilling is where your flame is.  For grilling, the flame is below.  For broiling, it's above.  You can broil a large quantity of fruit in your oven.  Simply spread the fruit onto a baking sheet, leaving the cut side facing up.  Broil 5 minutes, flip, and finish another 5 minutes.


Frozen...and even Canned

Skill Level: Beginner                             Taste Level: Curious Seedling - Confident Brussel Sprout

Use on: Frozen berries, mango, banana, peaches, and pineapple

Chef's Tip:  I opt for frozen organic wild blueberries when baking, like in my Sweet Potato Wild Blueberry Muffins

Chef's Tip:  I opt for frozen organic wild blueberries when baking, like in my Sweet Potato Wild Blueberry Muffins

How to do it:  When fresh fruit isn't at its peak, try frozen instead.  Frozen fruit is packed during the height of the season, when fruit is at its ripest, so it can provide high-quality sweetness at a reasonable price.  Some organic fruits like wild blueberries or organic peaches are cheaper frozen.  In fact, many chefs prefer the consistency that frozen fruits provide, especially in baking recipes.


Fresh

Skill Level: Beginner                             Taste Level: Curious Seedling - Confident Brussel Sprout

Use on: Anything!  Oranges, apples, mangos, blueberries, pineapple, watermelon...whatever looks delicious!

How to do it:  There aren't many "rules" when it comes to eating fresh fruit.  Generally, it's best to follow what is in season...strawberries in January usually aren't as flavorful as they are in May.  However, with year-round indoor farming catching ground and international shipping that brings us incredible plums from Argentina, even this guideline isn't steadfast.   

Two tips on picking the best fruit:

1)  Smell it -- If you can close your eyes and identify the fruit (or at least smell sweetness), you're off to a good start

2)  Weigh it -- Heavier fruit is generally juicier, riper, and more delicious.  You can just hold it in your hands to give it the "weight test".  If the fruit feels heavier than it looks, you're good to go.

Chef's Plant-Based Tip:  For a fun sweet treat, make fruit "kabobs".  Use a colorful selection of cut fruit like strawberries, mango, and kiwi for a delicious presentation

Chef's Plant-Based Tip:  For a fun sweet treat, make fruit "kabobs".  Use a colorful selection of cut fruit like strawberries, mango, and kiwi for a delicious presentation

To make the Ultimate:   Ever had an apple tasting?  Why not try this at your next dinner party?  Rather than a cheese tasting or wine tasting, choose 4-5 different varieties of apples from the market.  Slice them up, then lead a "tasting" where your guests rate the apples on color, sweetness/tartness, crispness, and overall flavor.

Chef's Healthy Snacking Tip: Give kids a "color challenge", encouraging them to choose healthy fruits like red cherries, orange clementines, yellow pineapple, and green kiwis

Chef's Healthy Snacking Tip: Give kids a "color challenge", encouraging them to choose healthy fruits like red cherries, orange clementines, yellow pineapple, and green kiwis

Or make tropical fruit skewers with some unique fruits like papaya, guava, and lychee?  This is a fun way to bring some playfulness to dessert.

For kids:  Try the "color challenge".  Next time the kids join you for grocery shopping, give them to the goal to choose "2 red, 1 purple, and 1 orange" fruits.  They might come back with red apples, purple grapes, and orange grapefruit...or something totally different!  They'll love playing a game AND getting to have a choice in what groceries come home.

 


Healthy Fruit Nutrition:

Heart-Healthy Fiber,

Nutrition Powerhouse

Can you eat Too Much?

 

Nutrition Powerhouse Truths:  Fruit is naturally a good source of Vitamin C, Potassium, Folate, and Dietary Fiber.  These nutrients help fight colds, protect you from heart disease, lower blood cholesterol, help your skin heal from cuts, improve red blood cell function, and generally keep you moving and grooving for years to come.

Too Much Fruit:  Is it possible to eat too much fruit?  Despite the fact that most of us aren't getting enough fresh fruit in our diets, this is one of the most common concerns.  Often we're worried about "too much sugar" or "fructose toxicity".  However, research has shown that eating even 20 servings of fruit a day was safe, even lowering cholesterol.  This article on the Forks Over Knives blog lays it all out: Is it Possible to Eat Too Much Fruit?


"Eat Your Fruit" Recipe Ideas:

Fruit Mock-Tail Salad Cherries, Grapes, Peaches, Pears - Healthy, Gluten-Free, No Sugar Added, Easy, Plant-Based Vegan Dessert

Fruit Mock-Tail Salad Cherries, Grapes, Peaches, Pears - Healthy, Gluten-Free, No Sugar Added, Easy, Plant-Based Vegan Dessert

Vegan Cinnamon Cashew Cream with Broiled Peaches and Plums - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Oil-Free, Plant-Based 1 Vert

Vegan Cinnamon Cashew Cream with Broiled Peaches and Plums - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Oil-Free, Plant-Based 1 Vert

Vegan Cinnamon Cashew Cream with Broiled Peaches and Plums - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Oil-Free, Plant-Based Recipe

Vegan Cinnamon Cashew Cream with Broiled Peaches and Plums - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Oil-Free, Plant-Based Recipe

Cardamom Berry Compote - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Plant-Based, No Added Sugar, Easy, Vegan Dessert Recipe

Cardamom Berry Compote - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Plant-Based, No Added Sugar, Easy, Vegan Dessert Recipe

Vanilla Bean Split Poached Pears - Healthy, Plant-Based, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Oil-Free, Fat Free Dessert Recipe

Vanilla Bean Split Poached Pears - Healthy, Plant-Based, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Oil-Free, Fat Free Dessert Recipe

Peach Pecan Spiced Oatmeal - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Whole Grain, Plant-Based, Oil-Free, Vegan

Peach Pecan Spiced Oatmeal - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Whole Grain, Plant-Based, Oil-Free, Vegan

Blueberry Sweet Potato Muffin - Healthy, Plant-Based, Oil-Free, No Refined Sugar, Vegan Baking Recipe

Blueberry Sweet Potato Muffin - Healthy, Plant-Based, Oil-Free, No Refined Sugar, Vegan Baking Recipe

Easy Broiled Apples - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, No Sugar Added, Plant-Based, Vegan Fruit Dessert Snack.JPG

Easy Broiled Apples - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, No Sugar Added, Plant-Based, Vegan Fruit Dessert Snack.JPG

Broiled Banana with Cinnamon and Cocoa Nibs - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Paleo, Oil-Free, Plant-Based, Vegan

Broiled Banana with Cinnamon and Cocoa Nibs - Healthy, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Paleo, Oil-Free, Plant-Based, Vegan


Helpful Fruit Videos:

Tips on How to Pick the Best Fruit plus Some Unique Fruits to Try


References and More Reading:

Why is it Important to Eat Fruit, Choosemyplate.gov : https://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruits-nutrients-health

Fruit and vegetable consumption among adults--United States, 2005.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17363889

Is It Possible to Eat Too Much Fruit? BY NAOMI IMATOME-YUN, Forks Over Knives blog: https://www.forksoverknives.com/is-it-possible-to-eat-too-much-fruit/


About the Author: 

Chicago Personal Chef Katie Simmons

Chicago Personal Chef Katie Simmons

Chef Katie Simmons

Katie is a Personal Chef based in Chicago.  She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue.  She consults and develops recipes for a Chicago-based food delivery company and celebrity cookbooks.  Outside of the kitchen, she is a Fitness Instructor for Equinox, with over 13 years’ experience in the fitness industry.  For fun, she loves to travel.  Some of her favorite trips include 4 days on the Incan Trail in Peru, 10 days of hiking in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile, and exploring the pretzels and vineyards of Germany.