Dietitians plead: Don't be afraid of eating fruit if going sugar-free, fructose-free

Sugar-free diets and concerns about fructose are leading more people to avoid fruit altogether — but they are missing out on a core food group, dietitians have warned.

"I think there is a bit of confusion about where sugar is found and which are the ones we should be reducing and which are the ones we should be including," dietitian Charlene Grosse told ABC Radio Perth.

Ms Grosse said the mainstream promotion of sugar-free diet programs, constant warnings about the consumption of soft drinks and fruit juice, and reports about the impact of high-fructose corn syrup additives had fed into a belief that even fresh fruit could be bad for your health.

"I think it's really good to look at what we are consuming in our diets, and reducing sugars which can be very calorie-dense and nutrient-poor," Ms Grosse said.

"But we don't want to do that at the expense of eliminating core food groups [and] fruit is one of those where we are finding people are trying to avoid."

Most not achieving 2 and 5 serves

The Australian dietary guidelines have long recommended that adults eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables a day.

But contemporary evidence shows that fewer than half of all Australians reach that target.

"Fruit is a core food group [and] contains different vitamins and minerals; it is high in anti-oxidants and high in fibre," Ms Grosse said.

"When you eliminate fruit from your diet it is not being replaced by vegetables, cereals or dairy."

The definition of a serve is one medium-sized fruit (apple, pear, banana and orange) or two smaller fruits like apricots or kiwi fruits.

"It's a cup of fruit if you are doing fruit salad," Ms Grosse said.

Getting balance right

Ms Grosse said many people started the new year with good intentions to improve their diet, but it was important to be pragmatic.

"We talk a lot about reducing sugar or fat in our diet, but we don't eat sugar in its pure form — we eat foods, and it's important to look at the food we are eating as a whole," she said.

"It's the whole diet that makes the difference.

"It is ok to have those occasional discretionary foods — cakes, lollies, biscuits and chocolate."

However, according to Ms Grosse, for many Australians those "occasional" foods have become the source of 30 per cent of their daily energy intake.

"We are not getting the equation right and that's where we can make a difference," she said.

"Boosting fruit in your day is a simple way to feel good, but also to improve your long-term health."

(Picture: Consumers are skipping the fruit aisle to avoid sugar, and missing out on a vital food group: ABC)