Step Three: 4 Fruits a Day, An Easy Change towards a Healthy, Plant-Based Life

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

 4 Fruits a Day

Pop question:

Would you rather eat:

1 “Healthy” Energy Bar

  • 200 calories
  • 13g fat
  • 15g carbs
  • 6g fiber
  • 6g protein
  • Gone in 6 bites

or:

4 Pieces of Fruit

Fresh peaches and nectarines
  • 230 calories
  • 1g fat
  • 58g carbs
  • 11g fiber
  • 3g protein
  • 4 snacks you can spread throughout the day

Answer:  Pick the fruit

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 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 most of us are eating only 1 (or even none!) servings a day.

Fruit is a healthy source of vitamins, fiber, and natural sweetness.  It can be a delicious treat any time of day, convenient for on-the-go snacking or an impressive healthy dessert.  With a rainbow of colors and flavors to choose from, fruit provides endless recipe possibilities.  

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 5-Minute Chocolate Banana “I-Scream!”; 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.

Wild Blueberries add a pop of sweet delicious flavor to these healthy vegan muffins. You can use frozen year-round

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.

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:

  • 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?

Check out my Fruit Videos on YouTube:

Fruit: How to Pick It and Cut It

Easy and Creative Fruit Recipes:

Hungry Yet?

Here are some healthy, plant-based recipes to inspire you to Eat Your Fruit:

Cherries, Berries, Pineapple, Pears: 15 Easy and Creative Healthy Fruit Recipes

References and More Reading:

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