Ask Aspen: Can I give my child too much fruit?
There’s been such a big anti-sugar movement over the past couple of years, with many parents now worrying about the amount of fruit they are serving their children in case they eat too much ‘natural sugar’. So can you really give your child too much fruit?
Lets talk sugar
Sugars are a type of carbohydrate. The most simple sugars are called monosaccharides (one sugar molecule), which include glucose, glactose and fructose. Disaccharides are two sugar molecules joined together, and include sucrose, maltose and lactose. While the chemistry of sugars gets much more complicated, we don’t need to delve into this today.
OK, let me start by saying not all sugar molecules are created equal. When majority of people talk about ‘sugar’ in the media, they are referring to sucrose. Why does this matter? Because our bodies produce a different enzyme to help break down and digest each type of sugar.
So if fruit contains sugar why should we eat it?
While fruit may be high in fructose, it is also rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. The fibre content is what helps us feel full after eating one apple, as opposed to drinking 10 apples in a glass of apple juice. Research tells us that daily fruit consumption can help reduce the risk of obesity, while also helping to prevent chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Despite these benefits, only 78% of 2-3 year olds, 59% of 4-8 year olds, 43% of 9-11 year olds, and 27% of 14-18 year olds usually consume the recommended number of fruit servings each day (in Australia). As you can see the percentage of Australian children eating enough fruit decreases with age, potential increasing the likelihood of diseases such as heart disease and certain caners.
So how much fruit should my child eat?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend the following number of serves:
1 serve for 2-3 year olds
1.5 serves for 4-8 year olds
2 serves for 9-18 year olds
ONE serving of fruit is equivalent to:
1 medium apple, banana, pear or orange
2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
1 cup of diced of canned fruit
30g dried fruit
If fruit is so beneficial can they really eat too much?
When my daughter was younger I was often concerned about how much fruit she was eating, as it was often 2-3 serves per day! The first thing you need to look at is your child’s diet as a whole. Are they eating the recommended number of serves of wholegrains, vegetables, meat (or protein alternatives) and dairy? If not, try to pick up on the food groups where you notice some gaps. If they are eating the recommended number of serves from each group, I wouldn’t be worried about them eating too much fruit!
If you’re wanting more advice on your child’s diet, feel free to contact me here.
Hi, I’m Aspen, a university qualified teacher and nutritionist. As one of seven kids, a mum and ten years teaching experience, I understand just how challenging mealtimes can be. That’s why I’m so passionate about giving families a range of strategies to reduce fussy eating and make mealtimes an enjoyable family experience. I also work with schools doing incursions, parent information sessions and canteen menu assessment.