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Toddlers are constantly learning what they like, and they might change their list of likes and dislikes by the hour. They’re experimenting with foods and learning about balanced meals, and little by little, you’ll introduce your toddler to new foods.
Fruit is usually a fast favorite, and that’s great news — fruit contains plenty of nutrients that children need to stay healthy. Here’s what parents should know about incorporating fruit into their toddlers’ diets.
Nature always gets it right. Fruit is packed with the nutrients we need to keep our bodies healthy!
A diet rich in fruit can help our bodies function properly and can help support the needs of a growing toddler. Here’s how.
Fruit is full of vitamins and minerals. The exact vitamin and mineral content will vary from fruit to fruit — for example, citrus is a powerhouse of vitamin C, while yellow and orange fruits, like mango and papaya, can help meet the body’s vitamin A requirements.
Minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and copper are found in the earth. When fruit grows, it draws up small amounts of these minerals from the soil, and they ultimately become a part of that fruit’s nutritional value.
Almost every single fruit you eat will contain at least trace amounts of several key minerals.
Many fruits are packed with fiber, which helps you feel full for longer and helps food move through the digestive tract. If your toddler is having tummy troubles, adding fruit to their diet might help them have regular bowel movements.
Fiber also helps control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar. High-fiber diets may even help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes when paired with other healthy choices, like minimizing the intake of added sugars.
Diets rich in foods like fruit and vegetables and low in macronutrients like saturated fat can help support a healthy heart. Balanced diets with lots of plant-based foods can help to keep blood pressure low and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The truth is that It’s never too early to prioritize your child’s health!
The current recommendation for toddlers between the ages of one and three is about one cup of fruit per day. This is an easy goal to reach. Giving your child a small serving of fruit with every meal, or using fruit as a primary snack food, is a simple way to make sure your child is getting enough produce.
It’s easy to measure smaller fruits like blueberries in cups. If you’re working with whole fruits, use this as a frame of reference for a one-cup serving:
You can have too much of anything — even healthy food.
It’s okay if your toddler feels inclined to eat a few more servings of fruit each day, but you shouldn’t let fruit make up the bulk of their plate — if they fill up on fruit, they won’t have room for their protein and healthy fats.
Every macronutrient needs to be represented harmoniously in a healthy diet — that’s why toddler plates often have divisions that should all be filled with something different.
Fruit also contains sugar. Eating fruit certainly isn’t the same as eating food with added sugars, because food with added sugars usually lacks most of the nutrients that fruit contains.
Even still, eating too much fruit can introduce too much sugar into the diet, potentially affecting blood sugar levels.
It’s unlikely that someone who eats a healthy and balanced diet will develop a health concern solely based on their fruit intake, but parents should still be mindful. If children are consuming too much added sugar from other sources, an excess amount of fruit can contribute to an overall sugar problem.
It’s usually much easier to convince a toddler to eat fruit than vegetables. Vegetables have a savory, earthy flavor that screams “healthy,” and most children just aren’t quite in a place to appreciate the true merits of healthy food.
Fruit contains a lot of naturally occurring sugar and vitamin acids. It can be sweet, sour, and a lot more fun to eat. Small berries can be served as a finger food and dipped in yummy pairings like yogurt.
If your toddler isn’t interested in whole or cut fruits served plainly, there are still plenty of things you can do to help them eat their fruit.
Making them feel more involved in the process and finding some compromises can go a long way in getting your toddler interested in new foods.
Toddlers are learning the concept of autonomy, and they typically love almost anything as long as they feel like it’s their idea.
Let your toddler choose which fruits they want to eat. If they get to pick them out, they’ll feel like they’re being given a big responsibility.
Take your child through the produce aisle or bring them to the farmer’s market, and tell them to pick out a few pieces of fruit they’d like to try. This way, they’ll be able to decide on their own what they do and don’t like.
It’s okay if your toddler absolutely hates peaches or raspberries — you don’t need to convince them to eat them. While your child is growing, let them have the fruits they want and will reliably eat.
Variety helps your child access a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients, and it’s okay if they choose their own variety, as long as they’re getting a full daily serving of fruit.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t always necessary to hide the fruit or trick your children into eating fruit — and in some cases, this can do more harm than good. There are plenty of ways to incorporate fruit into other foods that will make it difficult (or at least inconvenient) for your toddler to pick it out.
Adding sliced berries or apples to your toddler’s favorite cereal or oatmeal, for example, can encourage them to eat the fruit with the rest of their food.
You can also add the fruit to yogurt and granola parfaits, use it to top waffles, or mix some blueberries into the batter for your pancakes.
Let them know the fruit is there — if they really love the other components of a dish, they’ll be less likely to put up a fuss about the fruit.
If all else fails, a cup of 100% fruit juice still counts as a serving of fruit. Just be mindful of the juice you choose.
Always opt for a variety with no added sugar, and make sure to check the label — you want to be certain that what you’re getting is actual fruit juice, rather than a fruit-flavored drink disguising itself as juice.
That said, keep in mind that fruit juice contains a very minimal amount of fiber. The fiber comes from the actual fruit, which is discarded in the juicing process. If you’re looking to incorporate more fiber into your child’s diet, fruit juice won’t be a part of that solution. If you choose to go the juice route, make sure to incorporate high-fiber foods into your child’s diet.
Fruit is an important part of a balanced diet, and it’s very important to make sure kids get the vitamins they need to grow and thrive. Toddlers only need about a cup of fruit every day, and it’s fairly easy to incorporate fruit into their diets.
Most toddlers enjoy the sweet, wholesome goodness of fruit. If you read that sentence and thought to yourself, “not my toddler,” just give it some time!
If your toddler needs a little help meeting their daily nutrient goals while learning to appreciate fruit, there’s always Hiya’s once-daily children’s chewable multivitamin to bridge the gaps.
Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet | Mayo Clinic
Vegetables and Fruits | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Fruit and Veggie Tool Kit for Toddlers and Kids | American Heart Association