Your Facebook questions answered: Tomatoes – can you eat too many?

Tomato heaven at a marketplace in Nice

Tomato heaven at a marketplace in Nice

“Hey Rosie! I have a question: how much is too much tomatoes? My 4 year old is obsessed with tomatoes. She will eat them for breakfast, lunch and supper if you let her. It’s her favourite snack all through the day. If we let her she would happily eat a whole 680 gram pack of cherry tomatoes in one sitting. Obviously there are sugar issues here, which is the only reason I try and rein her in. But other than that I have a hard time justifying why I should say no. And as a backgrounder, sugar does not play a big role in her diet. Pop has never crossed her lips, and juice is rarely on the menu here either as we go for the whole fruit instead.” Says Enlightened Eater Facebook fan, Jennifer Hayes.

Jennifer, I would not worry about your daughter being on a tomato kick – as long as it doesn’t interfere with her consuming other nutrient-rich foods that are required for normal growth  and development or those necessary for everyday activities.  If she fills up on tomatoes, she might not have an appetite for  other options providing nutrients such as protein  and calcium. If her growth rate is steady for her age, relax and let her enjoy them. Kids tend to go through food jags where they love some foods and reject others.

As for the sugar found in tomatoes, you need not worry. In one cup (149 grams) of cherry  tomatoes, there are fewer than 4 grams of sugar.  That would mean that in an entire 680 gram pack, she would be consuming about 18 grams of sugar. That’s less than half of what’s contained in a can of cola.
But you can’t really compare those two sources of sugar.  In the soft drink, sugar is all you get.

In the tomato, though, the sugar is accompanied by a bounty of nutrients including fibre, vitamin C, potassium and carotenoids (plant pigments with a host of health perks). There’s also a long list of phytonutrients such as ferulic acid and saponins with heart health and antioxidant action.

Tomato consumption is also linked to variety of  positive effects among them healthy blood pressure and anticancer action. So for your daughter to develop a love of tomatoes is a good thing. She must be in her glory at this time of year. Do you grow tomatoes at home?

But there is one thing to keep in mind when it comes to the long term:  it’s key for her to also expand her taste horizons so that as she gets older, she includes more variety to reap assorted benefits and meet all her nutrient needs. Having a few forkfuls of other vegetables at a meal can help to accomplish this.

There can be one drawback with eating too many tomatoes and this would be more common in adults than in children. Because of their acid content, some people can experience acid reflux when they eat an excessive amount.

My backyard tomatoes- Black Krim and Matina

Last year’s backyard tomatoes- Black Krim and Matina

At this time of year, though, when my heirloom tomatoes are ripening in my garden, I am definitely willing to take that chance!

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Categories: Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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