Research: The Sweet-Tooth-Fruit Connection

A new study claims people who crave sugary treats like cookies and cake are more likely to eat fruit than salty snack foods. Since fruit is nutrient dense, some experts believe these findings may redeem the eating habits of the typical “sugar-eating machine”. The Associated Press reports:
A group led by Cornell University marketing professor Brian Wansink looked at the eating habits of thousands of people and concluded the craving for something sweet spans both candy and fruit. The study published in the journal Appetite found people who eat candy, cakes and other sweet snacks eat more fruit than people who prefer salty snacks like nuts and chips.

"I think it shows there is some hope for the typical dieter," he said. "... Maybe you're not just a sugar-eating machine — that there are some redeeming traits to your diet."
Wansink thinks this research can help ease kids into eating more fruit:
Wansink said parents and public health officials could use this information to encourage the phase-in of more fruits among kids and other people with a sweet tooth.

"I think it's something that can be done a little bit at a time at the dinner table," he said.
However, not everyone is sweet on the study’s findings. Dr. Beverly Tepper, a professor of food science at Rutgers University has doubts:
She said it was difficult to interpret the results since the study was vague in defining terms like "fruit lovers" or what specific salty and sweet snacks were considered. She questioned how meaningful the statistical difference was that researchers used to conclude there was a higher connection between eating sweets and fruits compared to salty snacks and fruits.

"I think it's an interesting idea," she said. "But I don't think this is the ideal approach to get at the question."
Dr. Fuhrman says  the best way to get children to eat healthy foods, like fruit, is limit their exposure to junk food and let them gravitate towards good food on their own (of course parents need to eat healthy too!). This excerpt from Disease Proof Your Child explains further:
Control your children’s environment, limit their exposure to junk food, teach them about nutrition, and then as they get older allow them to make their own choices in the real world, outside the home. You may be surprised at how wise they are. As they have become older, my children are in more and more situations where poor food choices are present, and they choose to limit their consumption of unhealthy food. They are extremely sensible, but not perfect. It makes common sense to them to take proper care of their bodies, as they learned that eating right was a gift that parents give their children when they are loved, to protect their future. The ongoing sharing of information about life, ethics, art, education, and nutrition can be interwoven into the education they receive in the home in an entertaining, caring, and loving manner.

An important point to emphasize is that you should not purchase and bring into the home foods that you do not want your children to be eating. For example, if you buy ice cream and eat it, it makes no sense and is counterproductive to restrict your children from eating it. One sensible alternative is to have ice cream only outside the home, at a party or special occasion when the whole family has it together. Children understand that the reason it is consumed rarely is because it is not a safe food to consume more frequently. When eaten on a special occasion together there is no guilt or hidden “cheating” involved. In place of ice cream in the home, healthy desserts and ice cream made predominantly with fresh and frozen fruits can be eaten and enjoyed as high-fat, artificially sweetened, or sugary ice cream.
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Kirsten - July 27, 2006 9:50 AM

My 3 year old loves knowing which foods are "good", "OK", or "junk". He also loves the frozen desserts we make using bananas or other frozen fruits as well as the occasional frozen soy/pecan desserts. Yum!

I don't think he can quite identify the difference in his belly afterwards between that stuff and dairy-based desserts, but we talk about the differences between tasting good *right now* and actually being good for our bodies. We have a whole litany we recite for good foods: "They make me strong and healthy and FAST and smart and strong and ..." (he'll repeat these items over and over!).

Thanks for the great daily articles and commentary!

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