According to the principles of seasonal eating, our bodies begin to crave cleansing, hydrating foods in the warmer seasons. After months of hearty soups and stews, a diet that prioritizes fresh fruit is a refreshing change, quite literally. And while it's not exactly a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation, you can get too much of a good thing, even when it comes to something as health-promoting as fruit. Though it comes bundled with fiber and other nutrients, “the fructose in fruit is still sugar, and when we overdo it, that sugar is warmly welcomed into our fat cells,” says Carolyn Brown, R.D., a nutritionist at Foodtrainers in New York City. Here’s how to keep a healthy habit from turning harmful.
1. Scale back on the sweetest stuff.
No fruit is off-limits, but bananas and grapes aren’t exactly weight-loss weapons, says Brown. Better bets: Asian pears, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, and papaya, all of which have a low glycemic index, a measure of how strongly a food impacts your blood sugar.
2. Pass up the supersize produce.
Like chicken breasts and bagels, bananas and apples have doubled in size over the years, says Brown. Shop somewhere that charges by the pound, not the piece, and choose the smallest size available.
3. Stop at two.
“You can drive yourself crazy trying to count grams of naturally-occurring sugar,” warns Brown. Instead, limit yourself to two pieces or cups of fruit a day.
4. Take smoothies into account.
Even the green kind can contain up to four servings of fruit and 90 grams of sugar. If nutritional information is available, choose a smoothie with 30 or fewer grams of sugar and make that your only fruit for the day. If not, pick one made with no more than two varieties of fruit.
5. Pair with protein.
The fiber in fruit helps regulate your body’s absorption of the sugar so your energy levels don’t spike and crash, but adding some fat and/or protein slows it down even more. Pair your fruit with nuts, seeds, sliced turkey or jerky.