Everybody struggles to maintain a balanced diet, get enough fruits and vegetables, and enjoy their meals without too much stress.
There are so many convenience foods available to make life easier, but sometimes the number of choices only makes life harder and more complicated.
There are some scenarios that make things even harder. For example, packing lunch. It would be nice to include fruit, but time is precious.
Whether you are shopping for yourself or your loved ones, you may find yourself wondering, are fruit cups healthy?
Are Fruit Cups Healthy?
Generally speaking, fruit cups are a healthy snack. Fruit cups refers to pre-packaged snacks that consist of fresh fruit packed in some kind of liquid, or sometimes a gelatin dessert.
The liquid is either a sugary syrup, water, juice, a juice blend, or a syrup made with artificial sweeteners.
Do I Need to Eat Fruit
Fruit is an important part of a balanced, healthy diet. Fruit is water-rich, so it helps to keep us hydrated. Fruit contains fiber and many vitamins and minerals.
Canned fruit, which is nutritionally the same as fruit cups, is associated with greater consumption of nutrient-dense foods (according to Nutrients journal).
It is important to include fruits of all different colors in your diet to ensure you get the nutrients you need.
However, fruit can be less convenient than other snacks for people who are busy.
Fruit often needs to be peeled or cut up, and it can be messy to transport. It can also be expensive and it spoils easily.
For example, mango. Mango takes some time and effort to cut up, it’s sticky, and you will probably want a fork to eat it on the go.
So, how can you get more fruit in your diet without inconvenience? What about those individual fruit cups you see in the grocery store, that maybe you haven’t eaten since you were a kid?
How Much Fruit Should I Be Eating?
A serving of fruit is 1 cup of fresh fruit, 8 oz of 100% fruit juice, or 1/2 cup of dried fruit. Adults need about 2 servings of fruit every day.
Different types of fruits provide different vitamins and minerals.
A good way to be sure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need is to eat fruits of different colors.
Types of Fruit Cups
When buying fruit cups, it’s important to pay attention. The small details make a big difference.
These are some of the options you can find at your local supermarket. For overall health, it is preferable to choose fruit packed in 100% fruit juice with no added sugar.
Whether you choose a single fruit or a mix of fruit is a matter of preference, but in your overall diet, be sure to include different types of fruits.
- A single kind of fruit in 100% juice
- A mix of fruit in 100% juice
- A single kind of fruit in syrup
- A mix of fruit in syrup
- Fruit suspended in a gelatin dessert
Below, nutrition facts for some of the most popular varieties of fruit cups are summarized.
Different brands and varieties are included, but they are all around a 4 ounce serving size with 60-100 calories.
Are Fruit Cups Gluten-Free?
Yes, fruit cups are gluten free. If you are trying out fruit cups that have a gelatin dessert, be sure to check the label as there could be additives that have gluten.
Is There a Lot of Sugar in Fruit Cups?
Sometimes, yes. There is no recommendation for the appropriate amount of natural sugar per day.
That means that sugar in fruit and 100% fruit juice doesn’t “count” toward the recommended daily sugar for adults.
Women should limit their added sugar intake to 24 grams per day and men should limit their added sugar intake to 36 grams.
The options below packed in 100% juice do not raise a concern in terms of staying below this limit.
However, the Market Pantry Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup contain 12 grams of added sugar and the Dole Fruit Bowls, Peaches in Strawberry Flavored Gel contain 20 grams of added sugar.
For women, the Peaches in Strawberry Flavored Gel account for almost all of one’s daily allowance for added sugars.
Are Fruit Cups in Syrup Healthy?
Fruit cups with fruit packed in syrup are not a healthy option for most people.
They are preferred to highly processed foods such as pre-packaged chips or cookies; but they are nutritionally lacking as compared to fruit packed in juice, or fresh fruit not processed at all.
|Nutrition info per serving||Market Pantry Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup (4 oz cup)||Del Monte Mango Pineapple in 100% Juice, Fruit Cup Snacks (4.4 oz cups)||Dole Fruit Bowls Diced Peaches in 100% Juice (4 oz cups)||Dole Fruit Bowls, Peaches in Strawberry Flavored Gel (4.3 oz cups)|
With relatively similar basic nutrition facts, what might you look at to compare them?
- All options are insignificant sources of fat, protein, and fiber.
- All options have very low sodium.
- The main differences are in calorie count, total sugars, and added sugar.
- The options packed in 100% juice are lowest in calories, carbohydrates, total sugars, and added sugar.
- The Market Pantry Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup are the better added-sugar option because they are lower in calories, carbohydrates, sugar, and added sugars as compared to the Dole Fruit Bowls (Peaches in Strawberry Flavored Gel). They are also higher in fiber.
Should I Make Fruit Cups at Home?
Let’s compare a popular option, the Dole Fruit Bowls Diced Peaches in 100% Juice, to a similar option one could make at home.
To put together a 4 ounce serving, you would need one medium peach. Adding three ounces of liquid to your container would replicate the experience of a pre-packaged fruit cup.
For this comparison, let’s imagine you are using Welch’s 100% White Grape Juice.
Ingredients (homemade): Peach, White Grape Juice (White Grape Juice From Concentrate (Filtered Water, White Grape Juice Concentrate), White Grape Juice, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Potassium Metabisulfite (Preservative), Citric Acid (For Tartness))
Ingredients (Dole Fruit Bowls Diced Peaches in 100% Juice): Peaches, White Grape Juice from Concentrate (Water, White Grape Juice Concentrate), Lemon Juice from Concentrate (Water, Lemon Juice Concentrate), Natural Flavors, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C).
|Nutrition info per serving||Homemade (1 medium peach, sliced and packed in 3 ounces Welch’s 100% White Grape Juice)||Dole Fruit Bowls Diced Peaches in 100% Juice (4 oz cups)|
The homemade option is higher in calories, carbohydrates, and sugar (more than double the amount of Dole’s option).
This is not alongside a meaningful increase in fiber or protein. Based on this example, you should not make homemade fruit cups.
They will take more work, contain more calories and sugar, and will not offer significantly more of other desired nutrients.
Perhaps if you see peaches on sale or have too many you need to use up, you would consider making at-home fruit cups– but they are not the best first choice.
Should I eat fresh fruit instead of fruit cups?
|Nutrition info per serving||1 medium peach||Dole Fruit Bowls Diced Peaches in 100% Juice (4 oz cups)|
Yes, sometimes. Eating a fresh peach might be a better choice when convenient. You get a little more fiber and protein with slightly less carbohydrates and sugar.
Depending on where you are shopping, and the time of year, it may be cheaper to go with the fresh peach.
But it may be too messy for you on the go, and a fruit cup could be your best option.
Are Fruit Cups Healthy for Toddlers?
Yes, fruit cups are a healthy snack for toddlers who are accustomed to eating solid foods. For toddlers, choose an option with no added sugar.
It is recommended that children under the age of two do not consume any added sugar, and beyond that, there are benefits to limiting it.
For example, limiting added sugar helps toddlers develop a taste for fresh fruits and vegetables. Enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables will help them eat a balanced diet as they grow up.
The fruit in fruit cups is usually softer than freshly cut-up fruit because it has been sitting in liquid.
This can make them easier for toddlers to eat. In general, fruit cups do not pose a significant choking hazard.
However, fruit cups that offer a fruit suspended in a gelatin dessert, such as Dole Fruit Bowls (Peaches in Strawberry Flavored Gel), could be a concern.
Do not serve this variety of fruit cup to a child that you would not otherwise serve gelatin desserts such as Jello.
Are Fruit Cups Healthy While Pregnant?
Yes, fruit cups are a healthy snack while pregnant. In pregnancy, many people experience fatigue.
Snacks such as fruit cups offer a way for people to get fruit (and just enjoy a quick, energizing snack) without putting in too much effort.
Fruit cups can also be shelf-stable for a long time, so they are a good snack to stock up on before bringing baby home.
Pregnant people will probably find they need to eat something with a fruit cup to ensure a balanced snack.
Pregnancy requires more energy overall; about 300-500 additional calories per day on top of one’s typical diet.
Pregnant people, or anyone needing a more substantial snack, can pair a fruit cup with a yogurt (plain, whole milk, no sugar added), a handful of unsalted nuts, or an ounce of cheese to balance out the fruit cup by adding protein and fat.
Are Fruit Cups Good for Weight Loss? Which Ones?
In weight loss, it is important to consume fewer calories than you are expending. Lots of people trying to lose weight count calories for this reason.
Some fruit cups, such as those packed in 100% juice, are a low-calorie snack with no added sugar.
Others, with syrup or other added sugars, are not so low-calorie.
People seeking to lose weight should try a fruit cup such as Del Monte Mango Pineapple in 100% Juice, Fruit Cup Snacks, or simply choose fresh or frozen fruit instead.
Bottom Line: Should I Eat Fruit Cups?
Yes. Fruit cups of all varieties are a relatively low-calorie snack, and they can be found at an affordable price at all kinds of supermarkets.
They offer lots of varieties and include many kinds of fruit. They are portable and simple.
They don’t offer a ton of nutrients, but they count toward your daily fruit and vegetable goal.
Simply put, they are not going to make or break your diet. If you like them, eat them!
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.