Fruits have gotten a bad reputation in the media lately as “too much sugar” and “fattening”. Teenagers may question fruit since it has higher levels of sugar compared to other whole foods. Since fruit comes with natural sugars, should teenagers eat fruit?
What are you going to eat if you don’t eat fruit? Teenagers should eat fruit every day. Beyond natural sugars, fruit also adds fiber, water, and nutrients to almost any meal. Incorporating fruits into a teen’s dietary habits can be a great way to meet nutrient needs and boost health.
Read on for more information about teens and fruit consumption — including the best fruits recommended by nutrition experts.
What Are The Benefits Of Eating Fruit For Teenagers?
Eating fruit provides many benefits for teens. In fact, teenagers who eat more fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat an overall healthy diet. People who eat fruit tend to have a reduced risk of chronic disease.
Fruits provide important benefits:
- Nutrients vital for health and maintenance
- Essential nutrients (i.e. potassium, vitamin C, and folate) that are often under-consumed in teens
- Dietary fiber
- Vital elements that teens need for growth
Fruits are naturally healthy:
- Low in fat
- Low in sodium
- Low in calories
- No cholesterol
Teenagers should eat fruit because fruits provide necessary nutrients. These nutrients protect youth and young adults from developing certain illnesses, diseases, and deficiencies. Eating plenty of fruits also ensures that teens are eating an appropriate amount of calories and managing a healthy weight.
What Are Important Nutrients From Fruit?
There are over 2,000 varieties of fruit available. This means there are many nutritious choices for teens to try, each with its own unique set of vitamins and minerals.
Here are some beneficial nutrients for teenagers from fruits:
Fruits with edible outer layers, such as apples, are rich in fiber. Fiber provides the following health benefits:
- Manages blood sugar levels
- Promotes good digestion
- Supports gut and heart health
Pulp containing fruits, such as oranges, also deliver small amounts of fiber. Whole or cut-up fruits are considered a better source of dietary fiber. Fruit juices contain little to no fiber.
Teenagers need at least 25-30 grams of fiber per day and many teens are not getting enough fiber. Fruit is a great way to meet fiber recommendations. Apples, bananas, oranges, and pears all have about 4 grams of fiber. Raspberries have 8 grams of fiber per 1 cup. Passion fruit is one of the fruits with the most fiber at 25 grams per cup (10 grams per 100 grams of fruit). Other great choices are pineapple, berries, cherries, apricots, dried fruits, and avocados.
2. Vitamins A, C, & E (Antioxidants)
Antioxidants are also crucial compounds that can protect cells from damage. Vitamins A, C, and E each function as antioxidants in the body.
Beyond functioning as an antioxidant, vitamin C is crucial for:
- Growth and repair of tissues
- Healing cuts and wounds
- Immune support
- Maintaining healthy teeth and gums
Consuming fruits with antioxidants can contribute to lowering the risk of:
- Heart disease
- Overweight and obesity
- Neurological disorders (i.e. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Eye problems
- Digestive problems
Oranges and pineapples are incredibly high in vitamin C, providing over 85% of the Daily Value (DV) with just a single fruit or typical serving. Mangoes are another vitamin-rich fruit containing vitamin C and E. Fruits high in vitamin A include cantaloupe, mangoes, and apples.
Fruits like bananas can be a rich source of vitamin B6, providing 27% of the Daily Value. Oranges also deliver B-vitamins like folate (vitamin B9) and thiamine (vitamin B1).
B vitamins are needed for many important body processes including energy metabolism, brain function, digestion and absorption, nerve function, eye sight, immune health, boosting mood, reducing stress, and more cellular functions.
4. Plant Polyphenols & Pigments
Polyphenols are disease-fighting compounds found in plants such as fruit. Other plant compounds, called anthocyanins, are pigments known as flavonoids. They have powerful protective properties that keep cells healthy and may protect against diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, and more.
Eat a wide variety of fruit and choose colorful fruits each day such as kiwis, berries, mangoes, grapefruit, melons, avocados, and more.
Perhaps the most popular mineral-containing fruit is the potassium-rich banana. Bananas also contain magnesium and a variety of beneficial plant compounds. Oranges and mangoes provide potassium and plant compounds, too.
More exotic fruits, like pitaya (dragon fruit) are also high in minerals. Pitaya contains iron and magnesium, which are both crucial to heart health.Tropical fruits like pineapple provide other important minerals like manganese.
Minerals are important for teen health, especially during growth spurts, athletic activities, development, and healthy body functions.
Some fruits (such as bananas, watermelon, grapefruit, blueberries) promote healthy gut bacteria by containing prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that helps to create a healthy balance of “good” bacteria in the intestine. Beneficial gut bacteria is important for teenagers to have a healthy digestive system, boost the immune system, protect against certain diseases, and protect against feelings of bloating, bowel discomfort, diarrhea, etc.
7. Healthy Carbohydrates
Besides fiber, fruit provides an amazing source of carbohydrates that help fuel your body; this comes from the natural sugars in fruit. Some people believe fruit has too much sugar, in reality, fruit is a great way to fuel your body when eaten in appropriate portions (about 2-4 whole fruit or cups of fruit per day for teens).
Is Fruit Fattening and Bad For You?
Do you even know anyone who eats way too much fruit and is overweight? Usually it is other factors that cause weight gain, not excessive fruit consumption.
I have worked with a lot of clients who say they cut back on fruit because it is high in carbs and “too fattening”. My response? “What are you going to eat instead of fruit?” Lentils? Kale chips?
Some people think fruit is bad because it contains carbohydrates (aka sugars) and eating too many carbohydrates means your body will store any extra as fat.
Fruit is not bad for you. Fruits contain natural sugars that fuel a teen’s brain and muscles. A teenager needs at least 250-350 grams of carbohydrates per day and fruit is a great way to get carbohydrates from healthy sources. Other healthy sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and lowfat dairy products.
Carbs are not “bad”, only the unhealthy processed and refined carbs are bad for you. Fruit provides not only carbohydrates, but also many other nutrients.
If you aren’t going to eat fruit, what will you eat in its place?
Learn more about healthy fat and daily fat recommendations for teenagers and the following posts:
- How Many Grams of Fat Does a 13 Year Old Need Per Day?
- How Much Fat Does a 14-Year Old Need Per Day?
- How Many Grams of Fat Does a 15-Year Old Need Per Day?
- How Much Fat Does a Teen Need Per Day? Ask a Dietitian!
Unfortunately, due to dangerous myths that fruit or fat is “bad”, less than 10% of U.S high school students are eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Knowing about different fruit options makes healthy dietary habits the natural choice.
The Best Fruits For Teenagers To Eat
The best way to eat fruits is to have different fruits of varying colors. Each color generally indicates a different set of nutrients. Fruits provide vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, fiber, healthy carbs, and more.
Fruits of Different Colors & Varieties
Red fruits provide antioxidants- lycopene and anthocyanins, potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and more
Yellow & Orange Fruits
Yellow and orange fruits provide vitamin A and other carotenoids, vitamin C, and folate
Blue & Purple Fruits
Blue and purple fruits provide fiber, vitamin C, flavonoids, anthocyanin (antioxidant)
- Purple grapes
Green fruits contain vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, phytonutrients (chlorophyll and lutein)
- Green apples
- Green grapes
- Dragon fruit/Pitaya
- Lychee (a.k.a. litchi or Chinese cherry)
- Jack fruit
- Passion fruit
- Acerola berry
How Much Fruit Should Teenagers Eat?
The amount of fruit recommended for teenagers depends upon age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. The following chart can help your teen discover the recommended amount of fruit servings they should plan into their diet:
Daily Recommendations for Servings of Fruit for Teens:
|Age||Number of Servings Per Day|
|Girls||9-13 years old||1.5 cups per day|
|14-18 years old||1.5 to 2 cups per day|
|Boys||9-13 years old||1.5 to 2 cups per day|
|14-18 years old||2 to 2.5 cups per day|
|Women||19+ years old||1.5 to 2 cups per day|
|Men||19+ years old||2 to 2.5 cups per day|
What Counts As A Serving of Fruit For Teens?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group.” Fruit in the following forms also counts:
- Canned (opt for varieties without syrup)
In general, 1 cup of fruit is equivalent to:
- 1 cup of 100% fruit juice (i.e. orange, apple, grape, grapefruit)
- ½ cup of dried fruit (i.e. raisins, prunes, apricots)
- 1 cup applesauce
- 1 cup sliced or mixed fruit
- 1 piece of whole fruit (i.e. large banana, large orange, large peach, medium pear)
- 32 seedless grapes
10 Tips To Help Teens Eat More Fruit
- Keep fruit in a place where you can see it. Ready-to-eat fruits are convenient and nutritious. Keeping them in plain sight increases the likelihood that teenagers will eat them.
- Keep prepared fruit in glass bowls in the fridge. Chopped fruits in glass bowls display color and look delicious. A refreshing fruit snack can tempt sweet tooth eaters when they are itching for a snack.
- Replace high-calorie and high-fat snacks with fresh fruit. Doing so will help teens cut excessive calories or encourage nutrient-rich eating.
- Send fresh or pre-cut fruits to school. Academic performance is supported with fruit consumption. Studies show that a well-balanced diet encourages healthy brain development and can support teenager’s performance, memory, and focus in school. Fruit is a great snack at school.
- Identify the barriers to fruit consumption. Once barriers are identified, they can be understood and solutions can be suggested. Possible barriers include peers, media influences, time constraints (i.e. busy schedules, extracurricular activities, sports, grocery availability), and unhealthy food choices. The cheapest fruits include bananas, apples, oranges, pears, applesauce, canned fruits, frozen fruits. Check for sales on seasonal produce.
- Make fruits available at home. Studies show that availability of fruits in the home is linked to higher intakes.
- Involve teens in the meal planning and preparation processes. This includes inviting them to help plan meals, go grocery shopping, or bake to encourage a balanced diet.
- Keep dried and canned fruit in the pantry. Dried and canned fruits make for great, shelf-stable, last-minute snacks. Research shows that making fruits available in this way can increase consumption.
- Involve fruit at breakfast. Try pairing fruit with dry cereal, low-fat yogurt, oatmeal, or low-fat granola.
- Encourage eating fruits for improved energy. Athletes rely on fruits for quick carbohydrates and support for activity. They can give teen athletes the extra boost of energy needed for sports and movement.
Should Teenagers Eat Organic Fruit?
It’s best to eat whatever produce you can afford. Don’t feel pressured or guilty if you can’t exclusively buy organic foods. You don’t need to buy all of your teen’s food organic, but there are some organic foods that are beneficial.
If your teen has a favorite food they consume often, it may be beneficial to buy organic options. Organic eating is encouraged as long as it fits into a balanced eating plan. It’s better to eat any fruits and vegetables than none at all or only a small amount of organic fruits and vegetables.
What Fruits are Inexpensive?
The cheapest and most affordable fruits include bananas, apples, oranges, pears, applesauce, canned fruits, raisins, watermelon, cantaloupe, frozen berries, pineapple, and more depending on the store and the season.
Check for weekly sales on produce; shopping in-season produce can be very affordable.
A Dietitian’s Favorite Fruits for On-the-Go Teens
- My favorite fruit leather (Costco also has an organic version)
- Applesauce and fruit pouches
- Fruit and veggie smoothie
- Cut up apples
- A bag of grapes
- Dried fruit such as mangoes or apricots
- Freeze-dried fruit
- Dates (or energy balls made of dates)
- Fruit salad
The Final Word on Fruit for Teens
Fruit is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Teens should find easy ways to incorporate fruit into their dietary plan. Working with a dietitian and families to encourage healthy consumption of fruit can encourage increased intake.
How Much Fruit and Vegetables Should Teens Eat? Teenagers should eat about 2 to 3 fruits per day and about 3 to 4 vegetables per day for the most health benefits to boost growth, function, and overall development.
What Should Teens Eat for Dinner? A teenager’s dinner meal should be focused on healthy carbohydrates, lean proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats. The best meal ideas include brown rice curries, vegetable chili, sweet potatoes and fish, taco salad, burritos, veggie pizza, wraps, whole wheat pasta, chicken and veggie flatbread and more.
Check out my meal plans for more ideas: Fueling Teens Meal Plans
What Foods Help a Teenager to Grow? Teenagers can encourage their body to grow taller by eating a healthy diet with plenty of nutrients from foods such as dairy products, lean meats, nuts and legumes, fish, green vegetables, citrus fruits, plant oils, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.
Do Bananas Make You Taller? Bananas can help teens grow taller because they contain important nutrients that help during puberty growth and development such as potassium, calcium, magnesium. Bananas also contain other beneficial vitamins and minerals and make a nutrient-rich snack.
- What are the Best and Worst Foods for a Teenager to Eat?
- Are Artificial Sweeteners a Good Idea For Kids? Why Sugar-Free Isn’t Always Best
- Should I Tell My Teen They Need to Lose Weight? Tips from a Dietitian
- Best Meal Plan for Teenage Athletes (FREE Download)
Dairy Council of California. Fruits. Healthyeating.org. Accessed June 2021.
Ipatenco S. Five Reasons Why Kids Have to Eat Fruit. Healthyeating.sfgate.com. Published December 17, 2018.
Produce for Better Health Foundation. About The Buzz: It’s A Struggle to Get Teenagers to Eat Their Fruits and Veggies! Fruitsandveggies.org. Accessed June 2021.
The Nutrition Source. Vegetables and Fruits. Hsph.harvard.edu. Accessed June 2021.
United States Department of Agriculture. Why is it important to eat fruit? Food.unl.edu. Accessed June 2021.
United States Department of Agriculture. Fruits. Myplate.gov. Accessed June 2021.
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