Don’t opt for a biscuit, reach for a pear, that was the message from a recent ‘Fruit for the nation’ conference held in Dublin. People are looking for more nutritious foods and want something that is natural and backed by scientific evidence. There is convincing evidence that eating at least five portions of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables every day can help prevent heart disease and some cancers. But we are not eating as much as we should, according to nutrition consultant Paula Mee, who spoke at the event. Many of us still opt for a biscuit rather than reach for an apple, orange or pear. Cost and convenience are the basis of choice for some, for others it is simply a matter of taste, and there are some consumers whose concerns about pesticide residues overshadow their understanding of the health benefits of fruit. The Government encourages increased intakes of fruits and vegetables through its ‘food-dudes’ programme led by Bord Bia’s quality director, Michael Maloney. He also mentioned that we tend to overlook fruit in our diets and stressed the importance of putting more fruit in kids’ lunch boxes. Healthy eating habits formed in childhood may help to prevent disease later in life.