“Health Food” Corner: What’s the Deal with Dried Fruit?

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I want to start a bit of a running segment here on the blog about “health” foods that may or may not be all that healthy. More and more I find myself having conversations with friends and clients where they are frustrated because they feel like they have been eating everything they are supposed to and they still aren’t losing weight; however, once we dive a little deeper, I find out that food marketing is once again tricking people into less than ideal choices. Maybe it’s not even food marketing, but some foods that are definitely healthy can lead to weight gain if not eaten in the right amount (I’m looking at you, coconut oil). We all have some idea of what a healthy diet should look like, but there are a few foods that sneak by and mess with all the hard work people are putting in to being healthy.  All that to say, I’m going to dive in on one of these culprits today and, if this is a topic that you find helpful, drop me a comment or shoot me an email and we can make this a regular thing!

On to the first offender. We all know fruit is good for us. I will never be one of those people that tells you fruit has too much sugar so eat all the strawberries you want while you read this. Never feel bad about eating a lot of fruit. Also never feel bad about eating a giant donut. Just don’t feel bad about food, it’s delicious and you can love all of it while still being healthy (just ask the plate of brownies sitting on my kitchen counter). Anyway, I’m getting off subject. Fruit is amazing, but have you ever thought about the difference between the regular kind and the dried kind? It turns out that, when it comes to dried fruit, things get a little more interesting.

Fresh Fruit Vs. Dried Fruit

The process of going from a grape (fresh fruit) to a raisin (dried fruit) is thankfully a simple one. There is no added sugar or any weird chemicals. In fact, all you truly need is a hot summer day and you could make your own dried fruit in your backyard. The key is to use heat to evaporate the water content of the fruit. That being said, there are some vitamins and minerals that are heat sensitive so, for example, a dried strawberry is going to have a lot less Vitamin C than a fresh one.

Now let’s talk calories. Piece for piece, dried fruit and fresh fruit have the same calories. They are the same thing, one just has less water in it. However, and this is a BIG however, when it comes to volume, you need to be mindful of how much dried fruit you are eating. One cup of grapes has about 60 calories. That same cup of raisins? 500 calories. Or let’s look at bananas: 1 banana (150 grams) has about 130 calories. If you dried that and decided to snack on 150 grams of banana chips, you’d be looking at closer to 800 calories. On a 2,000 calorie a day diet, that healthy snack just ate up almost half of your daily calorie needs and I don’t know anybody who feels like they just ate a full meal after a snack like that so breakfast, lunch, and dinner are still going to be happening that day too.

Like I said up top, I’m never going to say that you shouldn’t eat fruit and that applies to dried fruit too. It’s good for you! Dried fruit is a great snack, goes well in trail mix, and is full of amazing nutrients to sustain you on a hike without taking up too much space or risking getting smushed in your bag. What I am saying, is that sometimes we need to pay a little bit more attention to what we are eating and realize that, even though something is good for us, that doesn’t mean we can eat an entire container full and stay on track with our calorie needs for the day.

If you are looking to bulk, add calories to your day, or need to gain weight for some other reason, dried fruit is an amazing way to get healthy calories in without feeling stuffed. If you are looking to lose weight, dried fruit is also an amazing source of nutrients and counts toward your 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day–I just wouldn’t recommend eating it by the bowlful.