Dried fruit – wholesome snack or sugar bomb?

Me personally? As a registered dietitian, I am a huge fan of dried fruit and recommend it to my clients frequently. That may be surprising to some of you who think the sugar content of dried fruit puts it on par with candy.

Dried fruit is simply fresh fruit that has had the water removed. All the vitamins, minerals and fiber in fresh fruit is still there – it’s just condensed! Generally speaking, ¼ cup of dried fruit equals 1 cup of fresh fruit, so it is important to be mindful of how much dried fruit you’re eating. A cup of raisins would be like eating four cups of grapes. Snacking on 10 dried apricots is like eating 10 fresh apricots. You can see how it could get out of hand!

Because fruit is dried at it’s peak ripeness, dried fruit may contain more antioxidants and vitamins than fresh. One exception is vitamin C, some of which can be lost in the drying process.

When purchasing dried fruit, look for ones with just one ingredient – fruit. Some may be sweetened with substantial amounts of added sugar, which will show on the ingredients list. Others may contain sulfites or sorbates which extend shelf life and are unlikely to be harmful in small amounts.

I recommend clients used dried fruit as a nutrient-dense way to add flavor to their meals and sweetness to their snacks. Try making a sweet and sour raisin chutney to serve with roasted meats or poultry, toss dried currants or cherries into a rice pilaf or salad, or add dried apricots to one pot stews, like tagines. For snacks, pair dried fruit with another food that has fat or protein to make it more filling. Think a handful of dried fruit and nuts mixed together, dried fruit sprinkled over plain, whole milk yogurt or dried fruit blended with nut butters and other ingredients to make homemade energy bars or balls, like the recipe below.

Cherry Almond Bar with Chia and Coconut

Ingredients

  • 15 pitted dates, chopped small
  • 2/3 cup almond butter (or other nut butter of choice)
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Line a medium square or rectangle baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium pot, stir together dates, almond butter and water until well combined.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients until well combined, adding more water if needed.
  4. Spread evenly in the prepared dish and refrigerate 30 minutes before cutting into 12-14 squares or bars.

Share you substitutions with us in the comments!

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