Beautiful on the Inside

Mother and sun snuggling in the kitchen with an assortment of colorful, fresh pearsThis week a coworker said to me, “My son doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables, but it’s okay. He looks healthy.” Uh oh, this sounds familiar. Rather than what’s on the outside, the question we should ask is, “What does he look like on the inside?” Thinness does not imply healthy, and those who look like they are a healthy or expected weight on the outside may, due to poor diet or lack of exercise, harbor risk factors for chronic diseases on the inside. Medically this is called metabolically obese normal weight and socially called “skinny fat.” Unfortunately, like obesity, this condition is associated with insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood lipids, predisposing individuals to premature diabetes and cardiovascular disease. [1]

National data suggest that metabolically obese normal weight individuals make up more than 20% of the normal weight population, and about half of all American adults have one or more illnesses associated with poor diet. [2,3] And it’s no wonder. Americans tend to eat too much sugar, salt, and saturated fat, and not enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish that may protect against chronic illnesses. [4] Additionally, Americans don’t move enough; only 21% of US adults meet the national physical activity recommendation of 150 minutes per week. Weight is only one indicator of health status: The scale does not replace eating well, exercise, and an annual physical exam.

Like I discussed with my coworker (and just about anyone who will listen), small changes to increase fruit and veggie consumption and movement will go a long way – especially in children who are building lifelong habits. As we’ve been told a million times in our lives, it truly is what’s on the inside that matters.

1. Suliga E, Koziel D, Gluszek S. Prevalence of metabolic syndrome in normal weight individuals. Ann Agric Environ Med 2016; 23:631-635.
2. Wildman RP, Muntner P, Reynolds K, McGinn AP, Rajpathak S, Wylie-Rosett J, Sowers MR. Clustering and the Normal Weight With Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Clustering Prevalence and Correlates of 2 Phenotypes Among the US Population (NHANES 1999-2004). Arch Intern Med 2008; 168:1617-1624.
3. Ward BW, Schiller JS, Goodman RA. Multiple Chronic Conditions Among US Adults: A 2012 Update. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11.
4. Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program, National Cancer Institute. [Accessed Apr 16, 2017]; Usual Dietary Intakes: Food Intakes, U.S. Population, 2007–2010.

Pear “Toasts”

Pears sliced lengthwise topped with delicious toppingsYou’ve probably noticed how trendy the idea of toast has become, with food magazines, cooking shows, and restaurant chefs across the country coming up with enticing toppings for a humble slice of bread. There are even entire cafes dedicated to the concept. But what happens when you have the wacky idea to exchange a slice of pear for the bread? Magic!

Here are four delicious ideas for topping pear “toasts” at home. Consider this a jumping off point for coming up with your own creative combinations, using whatever variety of pear you have ripening on the counter, and any tasty toppings sitting in your fridge or pantry. The options are practically endless, since pears taste amazing with both sweet and savory flavors. These quick creations are a yummy snack for kids and adults alike, whether the craving strikes after school or at the office. But really they are great anytime of the day, from breakfast on the go to a midnight snack.

The first step is to slice a ripe USA pear lengthwise, cutting on either side of the core to create 1/4-inch thick planks. Next, get topping!

Toast 1:
USA Green Anjou Pear
Almond Nut Butter
Banana Slices
Honey Drizzle
Cinnamon Sprinkle
Poppy Seeds

Toast 2:
USA Bosc Pear
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Cucumber Slices
Crumbled Feta
Chopped Kalamata Olives
Dill Sprigs

Toast 3:
USA Bosc Pear
Gorgonzola Dolce Cheese
Salami Slices
Chopped Hazelnuts
Chopped Parsley

Toast 4:
USA Red Anjou
Vanilla Greek Yogurt
Chopped Dried Apricots
Mint Leaves
Black Sesame Seeds

New Initiative to Increase Fruit Consumption in Children

betta_7475In a push to increase fruit consumption in children, the United Kingdom’s largest grocery chain, Tesco, has implemented a program offering free fruit to children while their parents shop. Just like the United States Department of Agriculture, the UK government recommends everyone, including children, eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Unfortunately, like the US, children in the UK fall short of this recommendation with only 10% of boys and 7% of girls aged 11-18 consuming 5 fruits and vegetables each day; only 2% of American kids eat the recommended daily five servings of fruits and veggies. The Tesco initiative is being launched in over 800 stores and is already receiving praise from experts and charities. But, will it work?

Well, that’s hard to say. Last year, a study from the University of Vermont found that school children required by federal mandate to take either a fruit or vegetable with lunch actually consumed less of each. Digital imaging was used to capture student lunch trays before and after consumption, and more produce was actually thrown away. Does this mean we should stop encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption? Of course not. But what it does mean is that multiple approaches may be better at achieving increased consumption. The study authors suggest slicing fruit, serving fruit/vegetables with dip, or mixing the produce in with other portions of the meal. Likewise, encouraging fruit and veggie consumption from an earlier age and increasing access and positivity in the environment, such as farm-to-school programs, may help normalize eating healthfully.

Only time will tell how the UK initiative will fare. I believe we all agree, however, that the first step is always to offer healthful choices!

Read more about the study here:

Variety is Key!

Kids need nutrients to grow healthy bodies.

I’ve heard it a million times, “My kid just doesn’t like vegetables!” It seems to me that there is an epidemic of confusion concerning how to eat healthfully, and it seems to starts early in life. I’ve never met a parent who didn’t want what was best for his or her child, so listen up! A study came out earlier this year with some good tips on how to get your children to not only eat their vegetables, but to like them, too.

When infants are first offered complementary foods, around 6 months of age, a study published in the journal Appetite found that increasing the variety of vegetables offered markedly improved an infant’s acceptance. A group of 60 mothers were randomized to an intervention group that offered five different vegetables during the first 15 days of weaning; the infants consumed unfamiliar vegetables followed by unfamiliar fruits and were assessed at a taste test one month later. The infants exposed to the variety of vegetables ate significantly more, and were rated by mothers and researchers as liking the vegetables significantly more. As expected, the liking of fruit was similar between the control and intervention groups. So what does this mean for you? Increase variety in your kids’ diets, offer unfamiliar foods with foods they like (fruit!), and be a good role model – eat your fruits and veggies, too!

FILDES, A.; WARDLE, J.; COOKE, L. Early exposure to vegetable variety on infants’ like and consumption. The TASTE intervention study. Appetite. May2014, Vol. 76, p210-210.

Little Green Pouch: Pear and Kid Approved!

I love pears for lots of reasons, but I’m especially fond of their widespread appeal. It’s fun to be able to strike up a conversation with almost anyone about pears—my grandpa, a kindergartner, the cashier at my grocery store. They’re just so lovable!

Pears are especially kid-friendly. They’re a hypoallergenic food, and with their soft texture, they’re easily pureed into sauce, smoothies, and soups. I recently received a complimentary pack of Little Green Pouches, a reusable food pouch like those you’ve seen popping up at Starbucks and grocery stores near you. This ingenious little food pouch is the perfect vehicle for pureed pears. I sent the pack to my sister, Aubrey, who offered to test the Little Green Pouch with her sidekick and babysitting charge Ellie.

Ellie, 2, was an instant fan of the combo. Here’s Aubrey’s report:

Aubrey: “Ellie, what do you think of the green pouch? Do you like it?”
Ellie: “Yeah! It’s really cool, Aubrey!”
I asked Ellie how she liked the pear yogurt mixture.
Ellie: “It tastes like ice cream and vanilla and pears!”

I went to pour more mixture into the green pouch over the sink and she frantically yelled at me to not pour it down the sink and to save it in the fridge for later.

She was very satisfied with the pouch and pears!


½-1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 pear

Pear and quarter the pear and boil in water until soft.
Mash it into the yogurt and serve!

Check out the Little Green Pouch website for pouch-friendly recipes and more information.

A Hearty Solution

RBP9037046 Woman with Pear

Young children are consuming larger than healthful amounts of sodium according to current research presented via the American Heart Association.1 Nearly 75% of packaged meals and snacks designed for children ages 1 to 3 years are high in sodium; some meals contain 40% of a toddler’s daily limit for sodium! Although packaged and processed foods are notorious for high sodium content, these results are striking since large amounts of sodium early in life may increase preference for salty foods and excess salt consumption is directly linked to high blood pressure. Indeed, about one in three adults (31.9%) over the age of 20 has hypertension, or high blood pressure, which increases risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.2  

Although these data are alarming, there is a simple solution: Decrease processed food consumption by adding more fresh fruits and veggies every day. A diet high in fresh or plain, frozen fruits and vegetables protects the heart.3 Keep it simple! Make more fresh foods at home, starting with fruits and veggies as the foundation for every meal. Add or mix in fruits or veggies to foods your family already loves, such as sandwiches, cereals, and sauces. Need an even simpler solution? Add one piece of fruit as a snack each day and you’re one bite closer to heart health!

1    American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions
2    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010 data
3    Circulation, American Heart Association

Kids + Pears

Prepare for cuteness: photos of little kids and pears!  Photo contests are always fun to see how people get creative.  This year in St. Petersburg, Russia, we held a contest with a parenting website, asking moms and dads to show us how their kiddos enjoy USA Pears.  Some shots were candid, while others were posed, but all results were adorable!

As proven by these shots, kids and pears go great together, and we’ve got kid friendly recipes, nutrition information, and our brand new Pear World kids’ website for you to explore with your little ones!

Russia Kids & Pears Contest

Pear Love

One of our pear growers, Jeff McNerney, sent us these adorable pictures of his nephew this week. He is such a doll…I couldn’t resist sharing!

Jeff says, “Here’s our nephew Kellen Goss eating an Anjou last week. My wife Cassandra baby sits him on Fridays and he always prefers the pears over his vegetables. The only problem is his mom always changes more diapers after he’s been visiting his pear farmer uncle’s place!”


Stay tuned for more kid-friendly fare in the coming weeks! And if you haven’t already, check out our brand-new kids website, Pear World!

How do the kids in your life enjoy pears?

USDA to Add More Fruits and Vegetables to School Lunches

Approximately 32 million children eat school lunch every day. With few updates to nutrition requirements over the last 15 years, these U.S. schoolchildren are about to see some big improvements! Since almost 1 in 3 children ages 6-19 in the United States is overweight or obese, it’s fitting that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has chosen to focus on increasing fruits and vegetables to limit obesity. As part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, the portion of fruits and vegetables served to children will double at each meal; fruits and vegetables contain energy, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water, necessary nutrients to enhance the health and wellbeing of every child. Additionally, only low-fat milk (nonfat or 1%) will be available, more whole grains will be offered, portions will be more appropriate, and there will be reductions in sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat.

Nutrition and education are inherently linked; improved nutritional status in children will improve academic performance and allow students to engage in more physical activity, another important step to reducing the current obesity rate. The school environment, whether it’s the classroom or the lunchroom, is a learning environment! It is important to educate children that fruits and vegetables are the normal, healthy way to eat.

Fruit du Jour: Fresh Pears!

I recently attended the School Nutrition Association annual conference; the conference featured innovative approaches to healthy school meals, as well as an immense exhibit hall of food and preparation products. I spent my time in the exhibit hall, encouraging nutrition professionals to use more fresh produce with the USA Pears salad bar, a unique and delicious way to offer fresh cut pears; however, as a dietitian, the sheer number of processed foods showcased at the expo was disheartening.

Having worked in a large school district, I understand how difficult it can be to prepare and offer fresh meals that meet nutrition guidelines, children’s often picky taste buds, and staff time and labor constraints. Dietitians know that children will select foods higher in saturated fat and calories if they are offered,¹ but that children exposed to and educated about fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat and enjoy them.² Learning does not only occur in the classroom; the school cafeteria is also a learning environment! An easy way to spice up the lunch line or box is with cut fruit. Studies suggest that produce preparation does influence a child’s likelihood of consumption; in other words, children are more likely to consume fresh fruits and vegetables if they are cut up rather than served as whole pieces.³ This is especially true for smaller children!

Mealtime is learning time. Adding more fresh foods not only meets requirements, but teaches children how to enjoy healthful foods. Why not cut a pear today?