Fresh is best, but it isn’t always possible. We are moving into the season where it’s not easy to find the fresh fruits and vegetables that lined the grocery stores only three weeks ago. My kids and I wanted some strawberries yesterday, and was even willing to pay a little extra for them, considering they aren’t in season, but I couldn’t even find any! My local grocery store didn’t have one fresh strawberry in the entire store! So, while we love to eat fresh fruits and veggies at all our meals, I get asked often if the alternatives are healthy for you.
One thing that used to bug me when I was working was to have someone hear that canned fruits and vegetables aren’t good for you, so they don’t eat them. And for some reason, they don’t eat ANY fruits and vegetables. To make it worse, I’ll see them grabbing candy bars out of the vending machine! I’d much rather see you eat some vegetables from a can, than pull a candy bar from a vending machine. Can you see the irony?
So, here are the alternatives, and their benefits/ or downfalls!
If you can get it, fresh always tastes better! TJ does not care for frozen green beans, or canned green beans, but loves fresh ones ! Experimenting in this way can help you find what they like. A bonus, is that fresh (especially if picked when ripe) is going to have the most nutrients available.
Second in order of healthfulness is frozen. I love frozen! Although for some items it may not be as tasty, frozen is convenient, it doesn’t have to be washed, its cheaper, it’s usually picked at the peak of ripeness, and you can eat it all year long!!
Frozen has as many, if not more nutrients than fresh because farmers (or you) can pick the produce when it’s the ripest and then flash freeze. Often, when we get fresh produce at the store, it’s picked before it’s ripe so it can make the travel to the store before it spoils. We love frozen!! ( did I already say that ?) If you are buying frozen however, watch to see if they’ve added ANYTHING like salt or sugar!
The vilified category of the group.. canned. People love to trash talk canned vegetables and fruits, why? Because the added salt, the sugar, the BPA, the cooking and canning process itself. But hey, no need to discount a perfectly fine method of getting your 5 a day. Just be smart! Read labels! Don’t go without produce just because you think canned is bad. My stance on BPA… it’s not a priority on my list of concerns. If I can find BPA free, I’ll choose it. If not, we aren’t going to go without peaches all winter, because my higher priority is to get enough fruit and vegetables.
Dried fruit is perfect for kids. It’s portable, convenient, and super high in nutrients and fiber. Again, check labels.. we love dried mangoes and dried cranberries, but most brands add sugar. Good choices are the Stretch Island Fruit Leather (no sugar), raisins, dried apricots, and dried apples.
The only downside to getting your produce in juiced form is the absence of fiber. Juiced fruit is a huge dose of sugar (even if it’s fruit sugar), but without the fiber to slow the absorption of the glucose into your blood. However, juiced does have a concentrated amount of micronutrients, and therefore can be consumed in moderation.
So, the bottom line. Although fresh is best, there is a place for all forms of fruits and vegetables in a child’s diet. Kids age 2-8 need 2-3 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. The point is to get them to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables and not to get hung up on technicalities.