As nutritious foods go, fresh fruits are high on the list. In addition to being relatively low in calories, fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals that can reduce risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, kidney stones, obesity, bone loss, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It is possible to have too much of a good thing, however, so it’s important to work fruits into your daily calorie goals and eat them along with a varied, well-balanced diet.
Fruit as Dessert: The Pros
Munching on fresh fruit as a dessert has plenty of advantages. Many fresh fruits are high in fiber and low in calories per serving, making them far more nutritious choices compared to slices of cake or ice cream sundaes. Fiber-rich fruits like raspberries and blackberries may further cut obesity risks and increase feelings of satiety, or fullness. If you don’t eat much fruit, munching on it after meals will help you work toward increasing your overall fruit consumption, which the Produce for Better Health Foundation recommends. Whole fruits are also more nutritious choices than fruit juices, as they contain more protective nutrients and less sugar. A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that the risk of type-2 diabetes was reduced by 7 percent when whole fruit replaced three fruit juice servings per week.
Fruit as Dessert: The Cons
Eating any food consistently after a meal can contribute to unwanted weight gain, even if it’s a food as healthy as fruit. If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight over time, regardless of where those calories come from. As Dr. Melina Jampolis, physician nutrition specialist for CNN.com, wrote in a 2009 article, fruit has an average of three times the calorie count of most vegetables, and eating more than three 1/2-cup servings of it per day could cause you to put on weight. Getting into the habit of eating something after a meal is finished may also put you at higher risk of mindless snacking and ignoring fullness signals from your body.
The Good and the "Bad"
Classifying any type of food or post-meal snack as “bad” is problematic in terms of establishing a diet plan that can work for you in the long term. If your goal is to lose weight and keep it off, it’s likely to be most effective to adopt an eating plan that includes foods you enjoy and allows for splurges in moderation. As long as you aren’t eating more than 1 to 1.5 cups of fresh fruit after every meal and are otherwise keeping your calorie count in check, eating fruit will probably provide more benefits than harm in the long term.
For purposes of learning to control your hunger, it’s smart to reach for fruit after a meal only if you aren’t yet full. If weight is a consideration, snack on foods that have higher fiber counts, such as fresh berries, rhubarb and apples. These fruits tend to make you feel full. Avoid pairing fruits with high-calorie additions like whipped cream, chocolate sauce or ice cream. For specific guidance on incorporating fruit into a diet that is consistent with your goals, speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian.