Fruit and veggies. Eat more fruit and veggies. Most of us have heard this mantra for most of our lives. Even when plant-based eating wasn’t “a thing”, we all knew that eating plants was integral to good health, and we knew that the foremost in edible plants was fruits and vegetables.

What’s more is that eating vegetables, at least theoretically, has always seemed relatively easy. There are loads of vegetable dishes—entrees, sides, salads (both warm and cold)—for us to enjoy. It has always seemed that in the pursuit of more fruits and vegetables, vegetables have gotten the bulk of the culinary attention.

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Fruit, on the other hand, has usually gone the way of “… and a piece of fruit” or ill-advised fruit juices. At its most adventurous, it’s thrown into a smoothie, and most of the time, when fruit is cooked, it equates to dessert, undoubtedly delicious but not always the most health-conscious way to deliver a serving of fruit.

However, this isn’t to say that fruit can’t be more, that it can’t make it onto a dinner plate, into a sauce or as a side dish. We just have to learn to view those fruits a little differently, to think of them as something more. Fruit isn’t only for dessert.

Fruit is for sauces.

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Now, there is no real getting around it: Fruit tends to be on the sweeter side of things, which makes it a more unusual flavor in what most of us consider dinner. Lunch and dinner, for whatever reason, have gone the way of savory. But this isn’t to say that we don’t enjoy a quick zip, a blast of tart, sweet or sour that fruit is ideal at delivering. Think sauces.

It doesn’t take long to start identifying fruit in sauces, and with a little exploration, we can find many other ways to introduce them into more. Sweet and sour is great over rice and noodles, and applesauce has long been a component of Christmas dinners (why not other dinners?).  Otherwise, avocadoes are fantastic for adding creaminess and healthy fats to pasta sauces, and citrus fruits have a well-deserved reputation as way to make stuff extra zingy. Try Cauliflower Picatta as a great first-try entree.

Fruit is for marinades.

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Fruit also does wonders for marinades. For some reason, marinades often get lumped into an exclusive “for meat” club, but that should not be the case. Lots of vegetables, tempeh (or tofu), mushrooms and more can do well from a little time swimming in spices, seasonings, and fruit.

Citrus, berries, tropical, hard fruits and whatever else—it can all add depth to the flavor of our food, which is what marinades are all about. Sweet and spicy combine well, herbs like mint and basil and fruits play nicely, and what doesn’t benefits from a bit of pineapple? What’s more, marinades that haven’t been contaminated with raw meat quickly become sauces.

Fruit is for the grill.

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It seems logical that if fruit makes for good sauce and good marinades, it might soon follow them to the grill and become something special in its own right. Again, thoughts about grills tend to be meat dominated, but that is a falsehood. Vegetables have already leaped onto the barbecue scene, but fruit needn’t be far behind. Grilled fruit is a magnificent experience.

Really, any fruit can work well on the grill, but some are particularly well suited to it. Pineapples just go right, as do watermelons (yep) and peaches (or any of the stoned fruits). Grill them up and serve them as a side or a centerpiece to a salad. Or, skewer some fruit favorites and make kababs. This summer’s barbecues may have just gotten a lot better.

Fruit is for the munchies.

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There is no denying that a piece of raw fruit is the right way to approach adding more fruit to our diets, but for whatever reasons, maybe its juices getting us all sticky or having to worry about it bruising in a bag, a piece of raw fruit isn’t the most convenient of things. Nothing says snack gone wrong like a mushy banana coating the inside of a backpack.

But, fruit is such a great snack, right, so we need to figure out a way to make it work. Dehydrating is that way. DIY fruit leathers are the real deal, both fun to eat (like the fruit roll-ups of old) and also nutritionally respectable (unlike the fruit roll-ups of old). Just about all fruits, from apricots to grapes to bananas to papayas, work well dehydrated, so when the afternoon munches strike, we can subdue them with an easily transportable serving of fruit.

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To be completely honest, for the sake of fruit as we know fruit, this article has focused on those things we typically identify as fruits. In actuality, we eat more fruits than we know. Technically, peppers, pumpkins, squashes, coconut, avocados, cucumbers and tomatoes are all fruit, we just don’t immediately think of them as such.

Either way, we now have some new thoughts on how to play with our food and our fruit, so aren’t we all the better for it?

Lead Image Source: Super-Healthy Vegan Berry Fruit Tarts With Chia Seeds