Fruit is so tasty and has such a nutrition halo that it ends up in a lot of processed foods. But those foods may not contain a lot of fruit.
Here's the reason why 60 percent of Americans don't eat enough fruit: It's hard to do. Two to three cups of fruit per day, which the Food Pyramid recommends, is simply a challenge.
Complicating matters is the huge selection of foods "made with real fruit." This claim could drive you bananas. Who doesn't prefer real apples in, say, their toaster pastry? Problem is, nutritionally, fruit products are not whole fruit, or even mostly fruit. Some barely pass a piece of fruit on their way to the box. The real-fruit claim requires a look at the nutrition label and the ingredient list, to see what you're actually getting in a piece of, for example, strawberry fruit leather.
Here we give you the full fruit spectrum, from fruit-flavored to, well, fruit. The more you eat from later in the list, the more fruitful the eating.
Fruit-Flavored Toaster Pastry
The package may claim "baked with real fruit," but fruit is less than 2 percent of the pastry's weight. And, of the 205 calories, only 4 of them might come from, say, dried apples. (Apples certainly don't deliver the trans fat.) Sadly, the pastry does not contain the nearly 4g fiber you'd find in 1/2 cup of dried apples.
The 190 calories in a 1/4-cup portion of chocolate-covered raisins is nearly double the amount in a 1/4 cup of regular raisins. Plus, the milk chocolate coating adds 5g saturated fat. Other dried fruits, like cherries or cranberries, get a dusting of sugar (adding more calories) before their chocolate bath.
Fruit Juice Cocktail
Typically, fruit juice cocktails have added sweeteners and flavorings. Even though 1/2 cup of the cocktail may have a calorie and sugar count similar to that of 100% juice, it might only contain 20% juice concentrate, which means it only counts as 20% of a fruit serving. The rest is mostly water and extra sugar.
Look for whole fruit or fruit puree listed as the first ingredient. Many sorbets contain 3 times the calories (thanks to added sugar) and less vitamins (thanks to the extra water) of 1 cup of fruit. A cup of sliced mango has 107 calories, 24g sugar, and 46mg vitamin C; a cup of mango sorbet has 300 calories, 72g sugar, and 10mg vitamin C.
Fruit-on-the-Bottom Low-Fat Yogurt
One 6-ounce container of plain yogurt has 7g protein and a fourth of your daily calcium. Good! But the tablespoon or so of fruit doesn't add much in the way of nutrients, and the added sugars from processing plump up the calories. Choose one with fewer than 25g sugar. Even better, buy plain, then top with fresh fruit.
100% juices count as a fruit serving, but there are some trade-offs. Consider: One orange supplies 62 calories and 3g fiber. A 1/2-cup serving of the extra-pulp orange juice has the same calories, but no fiber. And even though its 62mg vitamin C and 248mg potassium are about the same as you get from an orange, it's easy to overconsume.
Lots of pure fruit here, but remember that drying concentrates calories. Take grapes and raisins, for example. A cup of fresh grapes has 104 calories; a ½ cup of raisins has 216. Keep portions small. What about freeze-drying? It doesn't concentrate calories and is easy on flavors and most nutrients, but it's pricey.
You can't go wrong: Fresh fruits can be sweet or tart, refreshing, and supply many nutrients for relatively few calories. And canned and frozen fruits-without added sugars or syrups-count, too. Variety is key; each fruit offers different benefits. Berries pack vitamin C, plums have potassium, and mangoes offer fiber.