Nothing beats biting into a juicy peach fresh from the tree or topping cereal with strawberries picked from the local patch earlier that morning. This time of year, when winter cold grudgingly gives way to springtime sunshine, frozen fruit provides just as many nutrition and health benefits as fresh fruit, and often at a fraction of the cost.

You probably know that fruit is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including potassium to lower blood pressure, fiber to decrease risk of heart disease, and vitamin C for healthy teeth and gums. You might not know that fruit is naturally low in sodium and fat, and no fruit contains cholesterol. Eating fruit is a healthy way to satisfy a desire for sweets without adding sugar.

Frozen fruit can fill the void while we anxiously wait for the first locally grown fresh fruit of the year. Busy families appreciate frozen fruit since it requires no washing, peeling, or chopping. Frozen fruit doesn't go bad, reducing waste and saving money. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Processing Center, freezing fruit does not significantly change the amount of healthy phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals present in fresh fruit. For the most nutritious frozen fruit, avoid products with added sugar or syrups.

Try these simple, quick, healthy and delicious ideas to add frozen fruit to your family's daily food choices:

Blend frozen blueberries and strawberries with plain yogurt and a splash of orange juice for a delicious smoothie as a snack or on-the-go breakfast.

Top pancakes or waffles with frozen melon and berries warmed up in the microwave.

Mix frozen cherries or peaches into your favorite whole-grain muffin recipe.

Make a healthy dessert parfait by layering Greek yogurt with thawed frozen mixed fruit.

Turn plain yogurt into a healthy, fruity snack by chopping frozen fruit in a food processor, then adding yogurt. Store the fruit/yogurt mixture in the refrigerator overnight to thaw the fruit.

Mix frozen berries into oatmeal and microwave for a hot, naturally sweet breakfast.

Lynn Grieger, RD, CDE, cPT is a health, food and fitness coach in Manchester and online at www.LynnGrieger.com. There are always bags of frozen fruit in her freezer.