Look no farther than your local supermarket to see the global economy in action. There grapes from South America meet kiwis from New Zealand and pineapples from Hawaii — in February.
Today’s produce section is definitely not your grandmother’s fruit stand. And with all this variety, fresh fruit in season every season, there’s no excuse not to stock up.
You know the drill — for optimal health you’re supposed to get four or five servings of fruit a day. It needn’t be overwhelming; not with these clever tips.
1. Make it a rule: Every breakfast includes a piece of fruit. It’s the perfect morning food, filled with natural, complex sugars for slow-release energy, fiber, and nutrients galore. Cantaloupe, an orange, berries — all are perfect with whole wheat toast, cereal, or an egg.
2. Make another rule: Fruit for dessert at least three nights per week. A slice of watermelon, a peach, a bowl of blueberries — they’re the perfect ending to a meal, and are so much healthier than cookies or cake. Like your desserts fancier? How does chocolate-covered strawberries, poached pears in red wine, peach and blueberry crisp, or frozen fresh raspberry yogurt sound? They count too.
3. Every Monday, start your week with a fruit slushie. Add one cup fresh fruit, 1/2 cup fruit juice, and one cup ice to a blender and liquefy. That’s two servings of fruit before 8 a.m.! If you’d prefer a creamier smoothie, toss in 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt.
4. Substitute fruit sorbet for ice cream. One scoop (1/4 cup) contains up to one serving of fruit, says Carolyn Lammersfeld, R.D., who leads the nutrition team at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Chicago. To whip up your own, try freezing peaches packed in their own juice for 24 hours, then submerge the can in hot water for one minute. Cut the fruit into chunks and puree until smooth.
5. Or substitute frozen fruit bars for ice cream. Buy pure-fruit versions that don’t add extra corn syrup or sugar. Feel free to have one every single day.
6. Keep a fruit bowl filled wherever you spend the most time. This could be at work, near your home computer, or even in the television room. And keep five to eight pieces of fresh fruit in it at all times, such as bananas, oranges, apples, grapes, or plums. Most fruit is fine left at room temperature for three or four days. But if it’s out and staring at you, it’s not likely to last that long. A piece of fruit makes a perfect snack — as often as four times per day.
7. Get your fruits dried. Dried fruits are very portable and have a long shelf life. Take them to work, on shopping trips, or even on vacation. Raisins and prunes are classic choices. Also try dried cranberries and blueberries, which are extremely high in phytonutrients, or dried apricots, which are chock-full of beta-carotene, says Mary Gregg, R.D., director of Human Care Services for NutriSystem, Inc. Other options include dates, figs, dried peaches, dried pears, and dried bananas.
8. Bring fruit with you anytime you plan on driving your car for more than an hour. Once you are on the highway and cruising along, an apple or a nectarine tastes great and helps break the tedium.
9. Keep an apple in your pocket whenever you go for long walks. It will be your reward for getting to the midpoint of your walk.
10. Substitute prune puree for oil in baking. This works particularly well for brownies, says Lammersfeld. You can also try applesauce.
11. Make Monday red day. And eat only red fruits. Tuesday should be orange day, and so on. Here are some ideas from Peggy Hughes, author of 30 Days to a Healthier Family.
- Monday. Red. Apples, cherries, cranberries, red grapes, plums, strawberries.
- Tuesday. Orange. Apricots, cantaloupes, kumquats, nectarines, oranges, papaya,
- Wednesday. Yellow or white. Bananas, yellow apples, grapefruit, mangoes, pineapple.
- Thursday. Blue or violet. Blackberries, black raspberries, grapes, plums, figs.
- Friday. Green. Limes, pears, kiwi.
12. Mix fruits in with your salad. A sprinkle of raisins, some cut-up strawberries, a diced apple, or some sliced kiwi all make great additions to the typical tossed salad.
13. Puree fresh or canned fruits (peaches, pear, mangoes, apricots, etc.) and use as an ice cream or pancake topping, suggest the nutrition twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., and Lyssie Lakatos, R.D. The two are the authors of Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever.
14. Toss fresh or frozen berries onto cereal, salads, or ice cream. They’re also great stirred into yogurt or pancake and muffin mixes.
15. Freeze banana slices or grapes for a refreshing summer snack.
16. Every time you want a candy bar, have a small box of raisins instead. Raisins are sweet and healthy, and small boxes are just the right amount to fulfill a yen for a sweet treat.
17. Add fresh fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and bananas to pancake or waffle batter. Or dice over frozen pancakes or waffles.
18. Get your fruit in bread and cake once a week. How about applesauce cake, banana bread, strawberry, apple, or blueberry pie? Pineapple upside-down cake, anyone?
19. Use orange juice as a base for cooking whole grains.
20. Spice up store-bought salsas with fruit. Or make your own fruit-based salsas with pineapple, mango, or papayas. Mix with onions, ginger, a bit of garlic, some mint and/or cilantro, sprinkle on a few hot pepper flakes for fire, and chill.
21. Add diced kiwi, sliced grapes, or chopped apple to chicken, tuna, and turkey salads.
22. Keep cut-up melon in a container in the fridge. Use as a first course before dinner; wrap with prosciutto for an appetizer; mix with cottage cheese for breakfast; have a small bowl for a snack; even consider pureeing for a quick sauce over fish.
23. Shred (yes, we said shred) fresh fruit over plain yogurt. Use the large holes of a boxlike grater.
24. Use all-fruit jam on toast, bagels, waffles, or other breakfast foods. You can also mix it into nonfat cottage cheese or yogurt, or melt it in the microwave and use in place of syrup on pancakes and ice cream.
25. Every week, buy one exotic fruit you’ve never tried. It could be something as relatively common as a mango, or as unique as a lychee. Here are some tips on what these fruits are and how to enjoy them:
Asian pear. Also called an Oriental, Chinese, salad, or apple pear, this firm pear is meant to be eaten immediately when it’s hard. It’s sweet, crunchy, and amazingly juicy.
Cherimoya. Also called a custard apple, this large tropical fruit tastes like a combination of pineapple, papaya, and banana. Purchase fruit that’s firm, heavy for its size, and without skin blemishes or brown splotches. Let soften at room temperature, then refrigerate, wrapped, up to four days. To serve, cut in half, remove seeds, and spoon the fruit from the shell.
Guava. Sweet and fragrant with bright pink, white, yellow, or red flesh. Buy when it is just soft enough to press, and refrigerate for up to a week in a plastic or paper bag. To use, cut in half and scoop out the flesh for salads, or peel and slice. Try cooking and pureeing slightly underripe guava as a sauce for meat or fish.
Kiwi. This fruit never took off until they changed the name from Chinese gooseberry to kiwifruit. Now it’s one of the most popular of the exotics. With a flavor that’s a cross between strawberries and melon, kiwis are ready to eat when they’re slightly soft to the touch. Peel and chop, or cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a grapefruit spoon.
Lychee. Once, lychee trees were found only in southern China, but the popularity of this tropical fruit has caused its spread (it is now widely raised in Florida). The lychee fruit is about 1 1/2 inches in size, oval, with a bumpy red skin. Peel off the inedible skin and you get a white, translucent flesh similar to a grape, but sweeter, surrounding a cherry-like pit. Eat ’em like large grapes, one after another. They’re available only for a few months a year, but buy a pound next spring and discover why Asians call lychees the king of fruits.
Mango. One of the most commonly eaten fruits in the world, along with bananas. The flavor is a combination of peach and pineapple, but spicier and more fragrant (it is sometimes called the tropical peach).
Papaya. Soft, juicy, and silky-smooth flesh with delicate, sweet flavor. The center of the papaya is filled with small, round, black, peppery-tasting seeds, which can be eaten but usually aren’t. Peel, then slice into wedges or cut into chunks, or slice in half, remove seeds, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Unripe papayas can be peeled, seeded, and cooked as a vegetable, and you can grind the seeds like pepper for adding to sauces or salads.
Passion fruit. Passion fruit has golden flesh with tiny, edible black seeds and a sweet-tart taste. When ripe, it has wrinkled, dimpled, deep purple skin. To serve, cut in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon.
Persimmon. Delicate in flavor and firm in texture, persimmons can be eaten like an apple, sliced and peeled, and are great in salads.
Pomegranate. Available in the fall, it’s the seeds of this crimson fruit that you eat. Each tiny, edible seed is surrounded by translucent, brilliant red pulp that has a sparkling sweet-tart flavor. Choose fruit that feels heavy for its size with bright color and blemish-free skin. They can be refrigerated up to a month, while the seeds can be frozen for three months. To serve, cut the fruit in half and pry out the seeds. Use them to top ice cream, sprinkle into salads, or simply as a snack.
Quince. Tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear, with a dry, hard, yellowish-white flesh that has a tart flavor. Better cooked than raw. Quinces keep up to two months wrapped and refrigerated, and are primarily used for jams, jellies, and preserves.
Star fruit. Although they look exotic, most star fruits today come from south Florida. Slice them crosswise for perfect five-pointed star-shaped sections as a garnish or for fruit salads. Star fruit’s flavor combines the best of plums, pineapples, and lemons.
Tamarillo. This subtropical fruit is sometimes called a tree tomato, but the comparison ends there. Native to South America, this egg-shaped fruit has a glossy outer skin that hides crimson fruit that turns golden when cooked or heated. The orange-yellow flesh, studded with a swirl of edible dark red seeds, has the texture of a plum and is slightly tart. To peel tamarillos, plunge into boiling water for about 30 seconds, then slip off the skins. Cut crosswise into slices.