Peels & Pits: Accepting the Mess of Real Fruit

Last week Big P’s dentist told me that commercial fruit snacks are one of her top three villainous foods for children’s oral health. I was so happy to hear this. I needed a medical professional to give me an excuse to never, ever, buy them again.

Fruit snacks make me crazy because these products parade around as if they are a substitute for actual fruit. They are expertly marketed to children with interesting shapes, characters, colors, and flavors. They are equally attractive to busy mothers because they offer easy storage and almost no cleanup. Fruit snacks don’t spoil. Fruit snacks can literally be tossed into a backpack or purse. The packaging promises it’s a good source of Vitamin C.

Let’s talk about real fruit. Peaches are sloppy, juicy, and they have pits. Bananas can easily bruise and have that irritating peel. Don’t even get started about the lack of convenience in preparing a fresh mango. Real fruit can be a tough and sticky transition.

Let’s say you are trying to transition from Fruit Gushers Flavor Shock Double Dare Berry to uh, just a pear. (Seriously? Double Dare Berry? Now these people know how to have fun.) I picked Fruit Gushers because I was madly jealous in elementary school when my friends had those and all I had was fresh fruit. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I tasted these ‘fancy’ treats. Thanks, Mom. They are terrifying.

If you read the ingredient list for the Gushers, these two snack options seem similar. Pears from concentrate is the first ingredient in this really exciting sounding product from Betty Crocker, a General Mills brand. Cool, Pears.

But with the 90 calories per measly 25 gram serving, your child will get 1 gram of fat, 45 mg of sodium, 6 forms of sweeteners, and a slew of artificial colors. I almost forgot their lame attempt to health-ify their product with added Vitamin C.

In a small pear at 148 grams, your child will consume 86 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and an original source of Vitamin C. Did you notice the difference in serving size? It would take almost six packages of Double Dare Berry Fruit Gushers to match up to the pear’s weight. The fiber and water content in the fresh pear will fill up your cuties and help them feel more satisfied in fewer calories.

Ready to accept the mess of real fruit? I knew you were. You’ll happily surprise yourself with creative and inventive ways to make fresh fruit your family’s norm.

Read below for my for my favorite Family Fruit Transition tips:

  • It’s okay to be “fruit ignorant.” Ask the produce manager at the grocery store for advice on selecting the best fruit and how to store it when you get home.
  • Devote a shelf or drawer in your refrigerator for the fruit that stores well in the cold like berries and grapes.
  • Pick a super-cute bowl for counter-friendly fruit like apples, bananas, oranges, and plums. Always leave it out. Always.
  • Let little kids practice peeling bananas and oranges without assistance. Clementines are a great start.
  • Practice cutting up fruits like melons and mangoes. You’ll soon look like a celebrity chef.
  • Buy seasonal fruit – it’s usually cheaper.
  • Always have wet wipes in your car for cleaning up little fingers after a real fruit snack.
  • Pack a wet-one in your child’s lunch box.
  • Look on the front and back pages of grocery store ads for weekly produce deals.
  • Use skewers and toothpicks to help reduce sticky fingers. They’ll love stabbing the fruit and sword fighting afterwards.
  • When I want to snack on the run with no mess at all I pack freeze-dried fruit. We buy ours in bulk from nuts.com and Emergency Essentials.
How do you keep real fruit in the spotlight at your house? Let us know in a comment below or on the Don’t Panic Mom Facebook Page.
Nutrition facts from Nutrition Data and General Mills.