Is there anything more fall than sipping on a pumpkin spice latte and going to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard? It’s something I have on my autumn bucket list every year. An apple is always an easy, portable go-to snack for me, but it’s truly elevated when I pick it right off the tree in the middle of a brisk sunny day. It’s made extra special when it becomes an event to enjoy with family and friends.
Aside from being delicious and fun, apples pack a big nutritional punch. At least, isn’t that what the doctor always said?
Apples naturally contain sugar without any alteration from their original form, which is why they taste so delicious. But much of that sugar comes from fiber. The fiber in apples contributes to making it a low glycemic index food. Glycemic index is a measure of how a food affects blood sugar. Therefore, the fiber found in apples helps to better maintain blood sugar levels in our bodies, which plays an important role in diabetes management and maintaining a healthy body weight. The fiber in apples also plays a role in cholesterol management. And because of the slow digestion, it helps you feel full.
The main vitamins and minerals in apples are vitamin C and potassium. Apples also contain phytonutrients and antioxidants, which aid in warding off varying diseases, plus provide immune benefits. This plays into the keeping-the-doctor-away mentality. Beware, though, that while apples themselves are a highly recommended item, not all apple products are created equal.
Applesauce: Most applesauces have added sugar, especially those targeted to kids and in individual packaging. In fact, a small container of strawberry or cinnamon applesauce has up to 13 grams of added sugar. Instead, choose an unsweetened applesauce where the only ingredients are apples, water and vitamin C.
Apple juice: Much like applesauce, we unfortunately find added sugar in apple juice. Even those that are 100% juice can still contain a lot of sugar in a small package. In addition, when fruit is made into juice, it’s stripped of its natural fibers. Remember that cholesterol-lowering, blood sugar-managing, keep-you-full benefit of apples? Gone!
Apple cider: A fall staple, but boy, is it loaded with sugar. Enjoy this as a treat occasionally (perhaps when you visit that orchard and can have it fresh), but don’t take a gallon home to drink throughout the week.
Apple fruit snacks: It’s important to keep in mind that fruit snacks are not fruit. The ingredients in standard fruit snacks include fruit puree, corn syrup, sugar and corn starch. Sadly, these aren’t the best choice for an afternoon pick me up. Most kids can easily eat multiple packs, which contribute to a high-sugar diet.
Dried apple chips: Apple chips can be a great crunchy snack. But again, check your food labels. It’s common for dried fruit to have other ingredients added to it. Also, when fruit is dried, it’s more concentrated, which means the portion sizes should be smaller. A great way to try apple chips is to make your own. Core an apple, and slice it into rings. Put on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon or any other seasonings. Then bake until crispy, and enjoy.
Rather than choosing a processed apple product, opt for the real thing. And remember: Apples are portable. They make a great snack for busy families on the go. Pair an apple with a nice protein – like string cheese or a handful of nuts – for a filling mid-day or pre-activity pick me up. You’ll have a nutrition-packed snack that will keep you full for hours.
So this fall, see what your local farms have to offer, and remember that you’re getting more than a sweet treat. You’re getting power-packed nutrition and memories to last a lifetime.
Copyright 2019 U.S. News & World Report
Related video: How to Incorporate More Apples Into Your Diet (Provided by The Daily Meal)