There is a lot of confusion out there about dates. Are they a fresh fruit or dried fruit? Do they contain added sugar? What is the right portion of dates? I’m here to say dates are your friend, and if they aren’t currently on your grocery list, it’s time to add them! Read on to learn more.
Many people think dates are a dried fruit because of their appearance; however, they are harvested directly from the date palm, cleaned, and packaged similar to other fresh fruits, like grapes and berries. Dates have long been a frequent snack of mine, and Terra Delyssa Organic Deglet Noor Dates are one of my favorites! These dates are naturally sun-dried under the Mediterranean sun, hand harvested and pitted, and ready to be enjoyed on their own or as part of your favorite meal, snack, and even dessert!
One of the reasons I love dates so much is their natural sweetness. They contain zero added sugar, and their amazing caramel-like flavor is 100% natural and sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. Dates are also incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into savory dishes just as easily as desserts, and can be easily enjoyed on-the-go or as part of a multi-ingredient recipe.
Similar to other fruits, dates are a source of carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Dates are also high in fiber, making them beneficial for weight loss efforts by helping you feel full longer, and their modest calorie count allows them to easily be incorporated into any meal plan. One quarter cup of dates provides about 120 calories which allows room to incorporate plenty of other valuable nutrients into your meals and snacks. Dates are also known for their high potassium content and other essential nutrients, like B6 and iron.
The versatility of dates allows them to be enjoyed in so many ways. While I can grab a couple of dates for a quick snack as I head out the door, I often enjoy dates as part of a sweet and salty combo. Here are some of the simple ways I enjoy organic dates:
- Packed with cheese: Goat cheese is often used in this simple preparation, but I have also made them with feta and blue cheese. Simply fill your date with your cheese of choice to get a satisfying taste of sweet and salty with every bite.
- Wrapped in bacon: You may have seen this as an appetizer at a restaurant, but it is so simple to make at home. Simply wrap your date with one half piece of bacon, bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning half way through, and voila! To take this recipe to the next level, wrap the bacon around your cheese-filled date for a flavor-packed snack.
- Drizzled with nut butter: Almond butter, peanut butter, or any other nut or seed butter of your choosing can work well here. Dip, drizzle, or fill your date with nut butter for a sweet and salty combo that can easily be enjoyed with minimal prep.
This only begins to describe how dates can be used in your everyday menu. Also consider adding chopped dates to a salad, blending them into your favorite brownie mix, smoothie, or energy ball recipe, and using them as a topper for your yogurt parfait or oatmeal.
Because dates can be eaten in so many different ways, it is a food that works for everyone. Dates provide iron, a nutrient valuable for all stages of life, and especially during pregnancy. Adults, teens, kids, and even toddlers can enjoy dates in various forms. While your younger children may enjoy dates as part of their favorite energy ball recipe, your teen may use them as a quick fuel source before afternoon sports, and adults may choose to be more adventurous with how they incorporate dates into your day. For toddler, chopped dates are a fun finger food, and as they expand their eating horizons, they can enjoy any number of the ideas listed above for incorporating dates into meals and snacks. And, if you have any new eaters at home, pureed dates can be an excellent way to introduce them to this amazing fruit.
When stocking up on dates at home, the way you store them is important. I prefer to store mine in an airtight container in the fridge. This helps retain their moisture, but they can also be stored at room temperature if you prefer, and if you tend to go through them quickly. Recommendations state dates can be stored at room temperature or refrigerator for up to 6 months and frozen for up to one year.
Dates are a wonderfully versatile, nutritious, and low-maintenance food that has a place in every meal plan. They can be enjoyed for their naturally sweet flavor and used as a nutritious way to add variety to your meals and snacks. If dates are a new food for you, rest assured you will find plenty of ways to enjoy their unique flavor. And, if you are a seasoned date-eater, lucky you for having enjoyed years of this nutrient-dense and naturally sweet treat!
Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN
A New York dietitian who specializes in weight management and bariatrics