When it comes to solving big problems, I believe in reaching for the low-hanging fruit first. What’s the easy stuff we can get out of the way before working on harder challenges?

Right now, many of us can go for the low hanging-fruit in a very literal way: by visiting an apple orchard.

Apple Orchard

Swamibu/Flickr

In the 1980s, Americans faced a 20 percent lifetime risk of getting diabetes. Today we’ve got a 40 percent chance of coming down with that disease.

You know that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” saying? Well, it turns out there’s some truth to it. Women who eat at least one apple a day are 28 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

In reality, apples have no magic power over other fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet of mostly plant-based whole foods provides many benefits. Whether you munch on apples, carrots, celery, or peaches, you’re doing your body a favor whenever you simply eat fruits and veggies.

What apples have over other foods this time of year is this: They’re delicious, in season, and fun to pick. Especially if you’ve got kids.

When it comes to getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables, apple picking is the ultimate low-hanging fruit. Coaxing a child to eat broccoli and asparagus might be a challenge, but an apple she picked herself? That’s an easy sell.

My philosophy on kids and healthy food is that we grownups need to make the healthy stuff more fun than a Happy Meal. Sure, you can get a cheap plastic toy to play with for five minutes along with that fast food. But how about spending a day with your family in an apple orchard? It’s even better if they’ve got hayrides or a petting zoo.

An unplugged day outdoors with your family in the crisp, clean autumn air creates memories that last a lifetime. Apples fresh off the tree have a special taste, one I find hard to describe, but I know when I taste it. Some of my earliest memories are of apple picking with my parents when I was a young child. That taste of a just-picked apple takes me right back.

One day of apple eating is insignificant compared to the amount of food one eats throughout the rest of the year. But for kids it can also help shape their lifetime eating habits.

Get your kids excited about apples by trying different varieties to find their favorite one. Gorging on ripe fruit you picked together in an orchard will make a lasting impact.

After you haul your bounty home, you can try using your apples that you picked in different dishes (I like them in salads) and get your kids to help with the cooking.

When looking for a snack, a fruit might sometimes seem like a boring choice compared to all of the processed foods marketed to kids. But those apples they picked? Those are pretty exciting.

Spreading peanut butter on apple slices or pairing them with cheese and crackers can often suffice for a small meal.

Apple picking helps hook kids on snacking on fruit instead of processed foods. It can do that for grownups too.

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Jill RichardsonBy

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. OtherWords.org