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.
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 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.
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.
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".
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.