Would Amanda Eat It?

One of the things that drives me craziest in the nutrition side of my business is questions about processed food.  If it comes from a box, has a label, or has a shelf life of over a couple of weeks, it’s probably not great for you.  Sorry kids, that’s the cold, hard truth.

As you know from past Would Amanda Eat It? posts, that’s not to say I don’t understand why someone would need to eat a processed food from time to time – Quest bars being my own convenience food of choice when I’m running from client to client.

It’s just that I get a lot of submissions asking about this type of chip or that kind of fruit snack, and the overarching answer is usually – skip the junk, make it yourself, or find an alternative.

That leads us to today’s Would Amanda Eat It? – not technically a processed food (I mean, it does come in a bag, typically), but not technically a fresh one either.  The product in question today is dried fruit.

But it’s fruit!, you may cry, wondering how I could even question the merit of nature’s candy.  Sure, it was fruit.  But does it still count as fruit when it’s been dried, (often) sugared, and packed up?  Here’s the info:

The good:

  • At its best, dried fruit is simply a dehydrated form of fresh fruit – when it has no added sugar, you are getting most of the benefits of the fresh fruit (for example, fiber and iron from prunes, vitamin E and B6 from figs, or beta-carotene in dried apricots)
  • The portable, long-lasting benefits of dried fruit mean you can take it anywhere, pack it in purses or bags, and/or mix it with unsalted raw nuts for a powerful protein and carbohydrate combo

The bad:

  • let’s be real, peeps – a lot of the dried fruit you get at the grocery store has a ton of added sugar – and even if it has none, the concentration of the sugars natural to the drying process means that you’re getting a big dose of fructose – and calories – with every (tiny, tiny) serving of dried fruit (you only get 4 dried apricot halves, and even that has quadruple the calories of a nice, fresh apricot)
  • beware of course the “commercial” dried fruit (i.e. not the nice, natural kind from Whole Foods or the farmers’ market) – one meager 1/4 cup of Craisins has most of your sugar for the entire day (29g out of a total 40g) – and you know those little bad boys are so addictive it’s hard to stop at 1/4 cup!

The alternative:

  • Um, no brainer here – the alternative to dried fruit is fresh fruit!  Delicious, skin-on, water-filled, healthy and delicious fruit.  Sure, you may have to think ahead a bit more (you can’t just stash bananas in your car for a week), but it’s way worth it to grab an apple rather than an apple chip, an apricot rather than a Turkish dried apricot, or a big bunch of grapes rather than a tiny 1/4 cup raisins.
  • If you must get your dried fruit fix, look for those with no added sugar, use them sparingly (like sprinkled over a salad, rather than a big handful), or just bite the bullet and dehydrate your own fruit (in the oven – no extra gadgets needed!) – that way you know where it’s from, what’s in it, and how much you’re really eating.

Are you a dried fruit fan?  What’s your favorite kind, and where do you get it?

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