Fruit Salad Magic

Last Editorial Review: 7/13/2007

Turn fruit into a salad, and watch it disappear.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

Even if you aren't crazy about fruit, who can resist the array of colors, textures, and flavors a fruit salad offers? If you've got fruit sitting in a bowl or in your refrigerator, take five minutes to transform it into fruit salad. It's like magic -- your family and visitors will suddenly find the fruit irresistible, and it will disappear before your eyes.

Some fruit salads do taste better than others, however. Picture a salad made with canned peaches, apricots, and mandarin oranges -- all of which have similar colors and textures. Then imagine a salad made with crisp, tart apples; firm red grapes or blueberries; strawberry halves; and sliced banana or mango. This salad presents an assortment of colors and textures -- and is thus much more appealing.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when creating fruit salad magic:

The Most Nutritious Fruits for Your Salad

Fruit gives us all sorts of nutrients, from minerals like potassium to antioxidant vitamins like vitamin A and C, not to mention hundreds of phytochemicals. To narrow down the playing field, here are some of the top fruit sources of three powerful vitamins.

Vitamin A (think yellow/orange fruits):

  • Mango, 1 = 805 retinol equivalents (RE)
  • Cantaloupe cubes, 1 cup = 561 RE
  • Apricots, 2 = 183 RE
  • Watermelon cubes, 1 cup = 56 RE
  • Peach, 1 medium = 53 RE
  • Papaya cubes, 1 cup = 39 RE
  • Orange segments, 1 cup = 37 RE

Vitamin C (think orange and red fruits):

  • Orange segments, 1 cup = 96 milligrams (mg)
  • Papaya cubes, 1 cup = 86 mg
  • Strawberry halves, 1 cup = 86 mg
  • Kiwifruit, 1 = 74 mg
  • Cantaloupe cubes, 1 cup = 68 mg
  • Mango, 1 = 57 mg
  • Pink/red grapefruit, half = 46 mg
  • Raspberries, 1 cup = 30 mg
  • Blackberries, 1 cup = 30 mg

Folic acid (think orange and red fruits):

  • Orange segments, 1 cup = 55 micrograms (mcg)
  • Papaya cubes, 1 cup = 53 mcg
  • Blackberries, 1 cup = 50 mcg
  • Banana, 1 = 35 mcg
  • Raspberries, 1 cup = 32 mcg
  • Orange, 1 small = 29 mcg
  • Mango, 1 medium = 29 mcg
  • Kiwifruit, 1 = 29 mcg
  • Cantaloupe cubes, 1 cup = 27 mcg
  • Strawberry halves, 1 cup = 27 mcg

Fruits vs. Veggies

I know plenty of people who love fruit, but feel quite differently about vegetables. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and folic acid are just some of the many vitamins that you can get from fruits if you don't like vegetables. All three are found in dark green vegetables, for example. Not bonkers for broccoli? Feel free to enjoy the fruits listed above, and get your daily dose of these vitamins.

And what about the powerful phytochemicals found in colorful vegetables, which you've been hearing so much about in the news? Many of them are found in fruit, too.

Anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, which are thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, are in most berries and grapes, in addition to eggplant and red cabbage. Lutein, which is known to have antioxidant action, is in oranges as well as dark green veggies. Lycopene, another antioxidant, can be found in watermelon, guava, and red and pink grapefruit in addition to tomatoes.

Red grapes and blueberries contribute resveratrol, an antioxidant that may offer protection from heart disease. Blueberries, strawberries, and pineapple have p-courmaric, another known antioxidant. The antioxidant quercetin is found in apples, pears, cherries, grapes, and strawberries. Lots of fruits contain the phenolic acid phytochemical group: bright green kiwifruit; purple fruits like plums and blackberries; red cherries, strawberries and cranberries; and orange fruits like guava and mango.

Dressing Up Your Fruit Salad

You can dress up your fruit salad with all sorts of additional ingredients. There are things you toss in for texture and flavor pizzazz -- like walnuts or gingersnap crumbs if you want something crunchy, and miniature marshmallows if you want something sweet. And then there are things you drizzle onto the fruit, like flavored light yogurt if you want something creamy and tart or a splash of amaretto liqueur if you want a little kick.

What should you avoid adding to your fruit salad if you're trying to trim calories? First, there's whipped cream, with 51 calories per 2-tablespoon serving. Some recipes call for mayonnaise or Miracle Whip -- but at 200 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, you're better off without it. (See the recipe below for a lighter Mock Mayo for your fruit salad recipes.)

And what about nuts? While it's true that a tablespoon of walnuts or pecans has nearly 50 calories, nuts also contribute half a gram of fiber per tablespoon, as well as important nutrients.

Here are some lower-calorie fruit salad toppings to choose from:

  • 1 tablespoon walnuts or pecans = 47 calories (and 0.5 gram fiber)
  • 1/8 cup miniature marshmallows = 18 calories
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat granola = 23 calories (and 0.5 gram fiber)
  • 1 tablespoon raisins or dried cranberries = 30 calories (and 0.5 gram fiber)
  • 1 tablespoon gingersnap cookie crumbs = 30 calories (about 1 cookie)

And here are some lower-calorie drizzles and dressings for fruit salads:

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice = 4 calories
  • 1 tablespoon apple-raspberry juice = 7 calories
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice = 7 calories
  • 1/8 cup raspberries, pureed = 7 calories
  • 1 tablespoon pineapple juice = 9 calories
  • 2 tablespoons lite nondairy whipped topping = 15 calories
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt = 19 calories
  • 2 tablespoons low-calorie pudding = 22 calories
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons less-sugar jam + 1 tablespoon plain yogurt = 28 calories
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons liqueur (like amaretto or Chambord) = 29 calories
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat flavored yogurt = 30 calories
  • 2 tablespoons nondairy sour cream = 30 calories
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons less-sugar jam + 2 tablespoons lite nondairy whipped topping = 33 calories
  • 2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding made with 2% milk = 37 calories
  • 2 tablespoons lite nondairy whipped topping + 2 tablespoons flavored yogurt = 45 calories


Bad Foods That Are Good for Weight Loss in Pictures See Slideshow

Keeping Your Fruit Salad Fresh

There are basically two rules for keeping fruit salad looking and tasting fresh:

  1. The first rule is to wait to dress your fruit salad, and cut up and add the most vulnerable fruits, until right before serving. The less time the fruit spends exposed to the air and covered in dressing or topping, the better.
  2. The next trick is to use high antioxidant fruit juice to keep certain fruits from turning brown. Some fruits are vulnerable to browning when their inside flesh is exposed to air or oxygen, like sliced or chopped apples, pears, or bananas. A splash of lemon, orange, or any other citrus juice will help keep vulnerable fruit from turning brown.

Recipes to Inspire Fruit Salads

Fruit salads are as individual as our tastes (and what's available in our local markets). Here are three recipes to inspire you to whip up some fruit salad magic in your own kitchen.

Mock Mayo

Use this instead of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip in your fruit salad (or vegetable salad) to save calories, fat, and saturated fat.

1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup nonfat sour cream
2 teaspoons sugar (Splenda can be substituted)
2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon or orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

  • Add all ingredients to a medium bowl or 4-cup measure and whisk or blend until smooth.
  • Use in any fruit or vegetable salad recipe calling for mayonnaise.

Yield: 8 servings of dressing (2 tablespoons per serving)

Per serving (2 tablespoons): 70 calories, 1 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 121 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 65%

Honey Poppy-Seed Sauce

You choose the fresh fruit for the salad (try 2 cups each of four types of fresh fruit), then finish it off with this honey poppy-seed sauce.

4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange or apple juice
3/4 teaspoon poppy seeds

  • Add honey, lemon juice, orange or apple juice, and poppy seeds to small bowl and whisk together well to blend.
  • Drizzle sauce over 8 cups of fresh fruit salad in a large serving bowl. Toss gently to coat the fruit with the sauce.

Yield: 8 servings of sauce (each serving of sauce goes with 1 cup of fresh fruit salad)

Per serving: 32 calories, 0 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 0 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 0%.

Cinnamon-Almond Fruit Salad

This fruit salad has a nice blend of flavors from the fruit and the vanilla-cinnamon topping. The toasted almonds add crunch.

3 cups strawberry halves
2 cups blueberries
2 bananas, sliced
2 cups seedless grapes (red or green)
8 ounce container vanilla yogurt (any brand or type)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted almonds (sliced, slivered, or chopped)*

  • Add strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and grapes to a large bowl and toss gently to blend. Divide the fruit into 8 individual salad bowls.
  • Add yogurt, cinnamon, and vanilla extract together in a 4-cup measure and stir to blend. Drizzle evenly over each fruit salad serving and sprinkle each with a tablespoon of toasted almonds. Serve!

* NOTE: to toast almonds, place in single layer in a nonstick frying pan and lightly brown over medium heat, stirring frequently. Let cool before using.

Yield: 8 servings

Per serving: 153 calories, 4 g protein, 28 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 3.3 g fiber, 23 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 23%.

Published July 9, 2007.

SOURCES: Nutrients in Food, Elizabeth Hands, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000. Food Synergy, Elaine Magee, Rodale (to be published in 2007). ESHA Food Processor II software.

©2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


Which is one of the few drinks to be considered a superfood? See Answer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors