I had a flashback of being at a friend’s house, long before I had children of my own, and helping prepare a meal for their child. I picked up some kind of fruit and began to add it to the plate and the mom in charge said, “Oh no, if I give her that, she won’t eat the rest of her dinner”. At the time, I remember looking down at the plate which consisted of fairly healthy items and, probably out of the desire to not rock the boat and for my own lack of opinion on kid’s eating habits, I went along with the plan.
Now that I have children of my own, I have had to revisit this situation on more than one occasion with my life partner in love. There appears to be some kind of stigma in the world against serving raw unpackaged fruit for or with a child’s dinner. Some unspoken tradition passed down for generations that says a child must first eat his more processed, less raw products before reaping the benefits of some whole foods. It’s very confusing for me.
I look at the plate, which we generally try to fill with quality food, but most of which has been prepared in some fashion and has diminished nutritional value compared to its whole food counterparts, and I feel good about having some fresh raw, unpackaged fruit included. My life partner in love looks at the same plate and expresses concerns that the fruit will get eaten and not the other food and it is here that our discussion takes a turn towards debate. I chime in with the nutritional value of the fruit being far superior than anything else on the plate. Fruit provides fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and is an excellent tool for detoxification. The reply is often that they need more calories than that fruit will provide. Touché.
My thoughts are that children are very instinctual when it comes to eating. Even if they are full from the fruit on their plate, their bodies will tell them to eat more because it has not yet gotten the fuel it needs. Actually that needs corrected because I did come to an epiphany recently that there are kids who eat because they love food and there are kids that eat simply to live. My one daughter eats because she LOVES food and will continue to eat because it tastes so good. My other, not so much love involved but understands she needs food to survive and stops eating when she feels full. In either case though, they are free to make the decision about when they are full and how much and which items they want to eat from their plates; fruit included.
Does a line need to be drawn and should the fruit be saved for desert? I have actually found that when you dice fresh fruit and add it to the plate with all the other helpings and make fruit regularly available at all meals, there isn’t a rush to eat it all at once. Sure it’s the first thing they go for, but it generally is not the only thing they eat. We do the same with fresh raw vegetables, but for some reason they are not questioned as much as fruits even though the benefits of both raw foods are fairly equal.
Ultimately when deciding if fruit is the right choice for your dinner plate, you should consider the eating habits of your own children. There are plenty of people who suffer from digestion issues and fruit can trigger these effects. This may be true for your child. Obviously, children with diabetes have different fruit for dinner considerations as well. However, if your child has no real issues with combining fruit with other foods, then let the fruit fly raw and free on the dinner plate, lunch plate and anytime in between.