a bowl of cut strawberries and hands picking one out

When it comes to food that kids should eat but often don’t, vegetables may get all the attention, but fruit is just as important. And those who don’t develop a taste for fruit as children may never get into the habit of eating it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 39 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 consumed fruit or 100 percent fruit juice less than once a day in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. (For adults, the rate was 36 percent.)

Like vegetables, fruit is healthy. They're great sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. So it’s hardly surprising that eating fruit every day has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing some of the most common chronic conditions, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer. Plus, from blueberries to bananas, peaches to papayas, clementines to cantaloupe, there’s something to please every palate—once you get your kid to try it.

More on Healthy Eating for Kids

A study from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that apples are kids' favorite fruit, supplying 20 percent of the fruit they eat every day. That's good news. Apples are packed with vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. 

But the next three top fruit sources are actually juices—orange and apple juices especially. All together, fruit juice accounts for a third of the fruit servings children age 2 to 19 consume. That's worrisome, because juice has less fiber and more calories and sugar than whole fruit. And Consumer Reports tests have raised concerns about arsenic and lead in apple and grape juice.

Motivating kids to explore beyond apples and eat a variety of whole fruits means they get a healthy mix of key nutrients. For instance bananas, the second most popular whole fruit, are a good source of blood-pressure-controlling potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6, which helps the body produce neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that help brain cells communicate and regulate mood. Berries are high in fiber and anthocyanins, antioxidants that may lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer and improve brain health in adults.

To help you encourage your kid to enjoy a healthy variety of whole fruits, we’ve come up with a few tips.

Ways to Get Kids to Eat More Fruit

  1. Involve your children in food shopping. At the store, let them pick their favorite fruit and new ones to try.

  2. Hit the farmers market or orchard together. If you make picking out fruit an event, children may come to see it as a special treat.

  3. Serve new fruits with old favorites. Kids are more likely to try a new food when it’s accompanied by something they’re familiar with. Slice apples with pears, or mix bananas with berries.

  4. Make fruit appealing. Place it in attractive bowls or on pretty plates on the kitchen table. Slice a few different ones and serve them on skewers for fruit kebabs. Cut up the fruit rather than serve it whole, and add a low-fat dip or yogurt to switch it up.

  5. Blend fruit into smoothies. Combine fruit with low-fat or fat-free milk or plain yogurt. Unlike juice smoothies, when you blend the whole fruit, you're still getting the fiber.

  6. Use fruit to top cereal or yogurt. Try bananas, peaches, strawberries, or blueberries, or add a variety to make it interesting. Add blueberries or bananas to pancakes instead of chocolate chips.

  7. Pack fruit in their lunches. Always add a piece of fruit or individual containers of fruit (without added sugar) to your child’s lunch and offer them as an after-school snack.

  8. Try it frozen. Grapes, bananas, berries freeze well, but you can also buy bags of frozen fruit. Frozen is just as nutritious as fresh. (Whole grapes and chunks of fruit can be a choking hazard for young children, so be sure to cut them into pieces no larger than a half-inch.)

  9. Establish a "fruit first" rule. Before allowing kids to have candy, chips, or other less-than-healthy food for a snack, tell them they have to have some fruit first. Then if they still want the treat, serve them a small portion.

  10. Make fruit the main dessert. You can serve sliced fruit or a fruit salad, but you aren’t limited to that. Apples, pears, and peaches are delicious baked. Try topping a bowl of berries or slice bananas with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or drizzle with a little chocolate sauce.

The Benefits of Fruit

Looking for a great after-dinner snack? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports explains why fruit just might be the answer.