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Are Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Always Best?

hands holding fresh kale, frozen peas, and canned green beans

The Benefits of Fruit and Vegetables For Growing Bodies

Many people are aware that fruits and vegetables are beneficial for our health. Not only are these foods beneficial for adults, but they may be even more beneficial for children as well. Here are some of the top reasons to serve fruits and vegetables to your child:

Nutrients for Growth: Vitamins like Vitamin A, C, K, potassium, calcium, and nutrients like fiber are all found in various fruits and vegetables. These vitamins and nutrients play vital roles in our health, from cellular function, bone growth, to digestive health.

Young girl carrying basket of tomatoes and lettuces with an adult

Healthy Gut Function: Eating fruits and vegetables gives our gut fiber that it needs to help the gut. The fiber aids the gut to move food through the intestines and therefore aiding in removing waste, or helping your child poop. A diet filled with fiber, along with adequate water intake and movement will help to prevent constipation.

Protect Against Diseases: Multiple studies have shown the protective benefits that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can have on our bodies. These foods can help to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease- things like strokes, heart attacks. They also can help prevent certain cancers. A diet high in fruits and vegetables is also protective against obesity. Being obese as you grow and as an adult can set up lifelong chronic diseases such as heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, and more.

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables in various colors has long been the recommendation of health experts as a way to get the wide variety of nutrients that each color of fruit and vegetable has to offer.

Various vegetables (radishes, artichokes, purple potatoes, tomatoes) laid on a table

How Much Do Kids Need?

Most kids eat less than the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Recently the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released with updated recommendations of servings of food groups for all age groups. They also look at what current intakes are for different age ranges. Not surprisingly, the average child (from all ranges) does not eat the recommended amount of daily fruits and veggies. Here’s the latest amounts of fruit and vegetable recommendation for kids:

Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations for Kids
Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations for Kids

If you have a child that isn’t meeting the recommendations, has trouble gaining weight, is a picky or hesitant eater, or just is a struggle to feed check out our Family Feeding Coaching. We walk with families for six weeks to help them move from frustrated to feeding with freedom and grace.

Woman with hand basket staring at shelf of food items in a grocery store

What Type of Produce is Best for Children- Fresh, Frozen or Canned?

So you know that your child needs to eat more fruits and vegetables and you may be wondering if there is a “best” type of fruit and veggie? Fresh, frozen and canned are all nutritious and contain healthy vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Overall, there is little discrepancy with the nutrient profile between produce that is fresh, frozen or canned. But there are a few things to look out for and consider when buying each option.

fresh kale

Fresh Fruit and Veggies: The nutrition content of certain vitamins and minerals is usually best when consumed as soon as possible after being harvested. Nutrients in produce often decrease the longer it is stored. If buying fresh from a store, these fruits and vegetables could experience a few days to several months in storage before being put on the grocery shelf. Fresh produce may be best for optimal Vitamin C, as canning undergoes larger losses of this vitamin in processing.

large bag of frozen blueberries

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables: These items are often picked at their peak of ripeness, which means their vitamin and mineral content is at its optimal level. For vegetables they are often blanched (put in boiling water for a few minutes) to preserve freshness, color, and texture and then frozen. For fruits, they are frozen and usually have a vitamin C preservative added to help maintain freshness, color, and texture. Be aware of added sugar to frozen fruits (mainly) and vegetables. Sometimes a pack of frozen fruit is labeled as a smoothie pack and includes added sugar.

hand holding canned apricot halves

Canned Fruits and Vegetables: The effects of canning are highly variable depending on the produce that is being canned. Some types of fruit and vegetables can have decreased vitamin and mineral content due to canning, often based on what the item is packed in. For instance, a syrup with sugar added for fruit. Some nutrients may leak into the syrup in these products. Canning can lower the water soluble vitamin content, but cooking frozen and fresh produce also reduces some vitamin and mineral content as well.

Why You Should Include All Forms of Fruits and Vegetables In Your Child’s Diet

Having a variety of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables is the best route to take for children. It can be really helpful to open up kids to an even bigger array of produce that all has beneficial nutrients for their bodies. Here’s why you should consider including fresh, frozen and canned produce in your family’s diet:

  • Ensures a variety of vitamin and mineral nutrient levels being consumed. Due to numerous potential circumstances, canned or frozen produce may have a better nutrient profile than fresh.

  • Allows for diversity for children to consume more fruit and vegetables in various ways. If you have a little on that won’t eat many fresh fruit or vegetables, using frozen or canned can offer other options for their diet.

  • Convenience. Purchasing frozen or canned produce helps to get food on the table faster as most of these items are already cut for you.

Young boy and girl picking vegetables with their mom in a garden

When you are looking for frozen or canned items there are a few tricks to be on the watch for. To gain the closest nutrient profile to fresh fruit and veggies, utilize these shopping tips:

  • For canned fruit: choose fruit packages in 100% real fruit juice. If not an option, choose light syrup and drain out syrup before serving.

  • For canned vegetables: choose cans with no or low sodium options. Rinse the vegetable and drain the water before cooking or serving for lower sodium levels.

  • For frozen fruit and vegetables: choose packages that do not contain added sugar, sodium, fat, or sauces.

This last week on Instagram we teamed up with two other fruit and veggie experts- Dani from (find her awesome food discovery books and free resources on her website) and Allison from @lilpinkiesup (find out more about her cooking classes and free resources on her website) to talk all about fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables. You can check out the video replay here and here. We talk all about the nutrition of fresh, frozen and canned; which items are best to use as fresh, frozen and canned; and how to use sensory and STEAM play to encourage your child to be an adventurous eater!

Tell us, which type of fresh, frozen, and canned fruit or vegetables is your favorite?

© 2021 The Doctor and The Dietitian. All Rights Reserved.

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