Don’t believe everything food manufacturers tell you. Here is the truth about “healthy” fruit cups, juice boxes and more:
Myth 1: Fruit Is Fine at Room Temperature
If you’re not putting cold packs in your child’s lunchbox, now is a great time to start. Keeping school lunches cool prevents bacteria from growing and it gives you more flexibility for menu planning. ALWAYS chill fruit.
Isn’t fruit OK at room temperature? Unpeeled fruit, i.e. whole apples, bananas, pears and peaches, is safe to store that way. But who wants to eat mushy strawberries and warm oranges? I sure don’t.
The moment you peel or cut fruit, it needs to be refrigerated. Put apple wedges, sliced pears or melon chunks into an airtight container right next to the cold pack.
Myth 2: Fruit Snacks These Days Are “Made With Real Fruit Juice”
ONE TINY POUCH of “healthy” fruit snacks can have the equivalent of 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar! The ones with “real fruit” often include concentrated apple juice, which has such a high sugar content it’s practically the same as high-fructose corn syrup.
Unless you want to give kids candy for lunch, choose a different option. I like to bake oatmeal-raisin cookies or blueberry muffins since I control the amount of sugar.
Myth 3: Every Lunch Needs Fruit Juice
One of the most common myths is that juice boxes are a “normal” part of school lunches. Actually, experts recommend water and milk as the most important drinks for kids.
Juice can be a healthy choice, but it’s not easy finding the right brand. Despite the colorful pictures of fruit slices on the box, many of these drinks are 90% sugar and only 10% (or 0%) actual fruit juice. Even 100% fruit juice can have lots of added sugar.
Choose juices that list “water” and “fruit juice” as the two primary ingredients. Better yet, make your own tasty juice blend for kids when they get home from school.
Myth 4: Kid-Friendly Yogurt and Fruit Cups Are Healthy
For some reason, many parents have the idea that manufacturers create kid-friendly versions of food to help moms and dads feed good stuff to kids. Yeah, right. These huge food companies are interested in profits via lots of sugar.
“Kid” yogurt, even without sprinkles and cookies, isn’t healthy. Fruit cups are packed with extra sugar, too. Of course, I’m not saying you should choose totally plain yogurt for kids — unless you add fresh fruit yourself.
For something less sweet than kids’ yogurt but more convenient than homemade versions, choose Greek yogurt. It usually has much less sugar.
Myth 5: All Fruit Is Great for School
Don’t forget about portion control when it comes to fruit. Some types of fruit have a significant amount of natural sugar. For example, one banana has half a child’s recommended amount of sugar for the entire day!
Instead of tossing a whole banana in the lunchbox, serve one-third or half a banana. Keep cut fruit from browning by squeezing a little lemon juice over the top.
Real fruit has incredible nutrients that help your children develop into healthy adults. It’s smart to teach your kids to love these tasty alternatives to junk food. Take a little time for menu planning or talk to a nutritional expert to save time.