Nature's candy -- fruit -- has a place on the plateDecember 6, 2017 4:31pm

Dec. 06--The MyPlate icon is designed to help consumers develop a healthy eating pattern with foods from the five food groups. Making positive dietary changes takes time. Start with a balanced diet to get you moving in the right direction.

This week's featured section of the MyPlate icon is fruit. Often called nature's candy, fruit satisfies our desire for something sweet along with health benefits not found in sugary, high-fat snacks, cookies or candy bars.

Sweet and juicy fruit is an excellent source of phytonutrients that protect cells from damage and decreases the risk of chronic diseases. To increase these nutritious benefits, eat a wide variety and fill your diet with different colors, flavors and textures.

It's a good source of fiber, too, promoting overall digestive health, especially when the skin is eaten. Fruit is fat-free and the natural sugar (fructose) supplies the body with quick energy making it a great snack choice. The amount of calories in a serving of fruit varies, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. A 1-cup serving averages between 80-100 calories.

Choose fresh, canned, frozen or dried fruit. While fresh is best, its not always budget-friendly, so watch for weekly produce specials. Purchase canned fruit packed in 100 percent fruit juice. Frozen fruit is a way to enjoy fruits that are out of season. Check the ingredients label to be sure of buying fruit with no added sugar. A serving of dried fruit is \ cup. The drying process removes the water but not the nutrients.

According to information published in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, recommended daily amounts (RDA) of all the food groups are based on a person's age and sex, a normal amount of daily activity and exercise less than 30 minutes a day. RDA's are slightly different; adult men, 19 years and older, need 2 to 2 { cups of fruit a day, while women need 1 { to 2 cups per day.

Here are some ways to add more fruit:

--For breakfast, add bananas or blueberries to cereal or oatmeal.

--Keep a bowl of fresh fruit front and center in the refrigerator.

--Enjoy a serving of dried cranberries and walnuts for a handy snack.

--Include a serving of canned pears with lunch or add orange sections to a lunch salad.

--Broil peaches or pineapples, season with ground ginger.

Next week: grains.

From the registered dietitians at IU Health Community Health.

Stuffed Pears with Pineapple

Prep time: 25-30 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

This simple recipe is perfect for this time of year, when fresh pears are plentiful. It's easy to prepare and a delicious salad to serve to dinner guests.

* 2 ripe pears

* { cup low fat cottage cheese

* 2 tablespoons canned crushed pineapple, drained well

* 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

* Lettuce leaves

* Mint sprigs and walnut halves (optional)

1. Cut fresh pears in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Scoop out center to make a generous cavity.

2. In a small bowl, combine cottage cheese, pineapple and walnuts. Divide the cheese mixture between the pear halves, filling the cavities and spreading over the top of the pears.

3. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves, garnish with mint and walnut halves.

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