Most young children aren’t terribly fond of broccoli and spinach, despite their parents’ best intentions. Fortunately, these naturally sweet fruits are extremely kid-friendly and pack many of the same nutrients. And since Thailand has an abundance of incredible produce year-round, there’s no reason for your family not to try some of these now.
Pros: A serving of pomelo provides almost 200 percent of your daily vitamin C. It’s also high in fiber and potassium.
Cons: None. A 100 gram serving contains just over 70 calories, which is uncommonly low for fruit.
How to use: Whole pomelos are a bit of a nuisance to peel and cut up (the fruit is enormous and has lots of thick, white pith to cut away). Buy pre-cut ones on the street or in the supermarket and eat them plain or toss them with chili and shrimp for a Thai-style salad.
Pros: Beta-carotene, vitamins A, Bs and C, plus potassium, copper, magnesium and folic acid make this a powerhouse. Interestingly, papaya contains a digestive enzyme thought to be helpful against inflammation.
Cons: No big ones. The benefits far outweigh the amount of sugar.
How to use: Plain, ripe papaya is delicious. Or you can always enjoy it green with a sweet-tart dressing in som tum.
Pros: The jewel-like seeds of this fruit are incredibly high in antioxidants, which offer protection against a whole host of diseases. Pomegranate has been connected to all sorts of health claims, from reducing cholesterol to lowering the risk of prostate cancer. It also may prevent blood clots from forming.
Cons: Pomegranates are higher in calories than most fruits and have surprisingly few vitamins.
How to use: The tough, fibrous pith around the seeds actually contains the most antioxidants. You can’t eat the pith, but many of them are released when the fruit is juiced. Drinking pomegranate juice also minimizes the risk of your little ones making a mess. When peeled apart by hand, the seeds have a tendency to fly everywhere and stain everything they touch. Alternatively, cut into the pomegranate and place it in a bowl of water. Separate the seeds out while the fruit is still submerged to avoid disaster. Sprinkle them over salads, roasted root vegetables, yogurt, ice cream or have your kids eat them like candy.
Pros: These red, hairy fruits aren’t just fun to look at. A 100 gram serving provides 66 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement, plus a significant amount of copper.
Cons: Though they contain less potassium and vitamins than some other fruits, rambutans are fairly low in calories and generally healthy.
How to use: Eat them whole. Rambutans are so brightly colored that they’re bound to peak your kids’ curiosity. Just watch out for sticky little fingers after your children devour a pile of them.
Pros: This fruit is full of vitamin C (100 grams, about 50 calories, has 80 percent of your daily requirement). It also has a bit of vitamin A, some trace minerals and the enzyme bromelain, which acts as an anti-inflammatory and is reported to have anti-cancer properties.
Cons: It’s a bit higher in calories than, say, watermelon and has a reasonably high concentration of sugars. Also, as a result of the protein-burning enzymes, your little ones may get a slightly sore lip if they have too much of this sweet treat.
How to use: Pineapple adds a sweet note to Thai curries. It’s also absolutely terrific grilled either as a sidedish or dessert. It juices nicely and can be added to shakes and smoothies. Diced up with chilies and lime, it makes a surprising and delicious salsa for grilled meats.
Pros: This utterly delicious local specimen packs a serious antioxidant punch. It’s also got a reasonable amount of vitamin C and A, plus iron, potassium and calcium.
Cons: None, really. Mangosteen isn’t terribly high in calories. It can be a bit messy to eat though. Make sure your kids wash their hands after devouring a pile of them.
How to use: Eat raw. Mangosteens don’t do terribly well when cooked and taste perfect on their own.
Pros: High in vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants, jackfruit is both nutritious and generally more popular with kids than the similar-looking (but far smellier) durian. Surprisingly, jackfruit also contains calcium and a little bit of heart-healthy fat.
Cons: Not many, though it’s higher in calories than some fruits. Its bland taste can be offputting to children at first.
How to use: Jackfruit can be eaten raw, but it’s also very good cooked. Try poaching it in slightly sweetened liquid and serving it with sweet sticky rice. It can also be added to certain curries.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, 2002