The most popular fruit among children – by a long shot – are apples, accounting for 29 percent of the fruit consumed by U.S. kids and teens, a study finds.

Whole apples account for around two-thirds of that, with apple juice making up the other one-third.

More than 3,000 children ages 2 to 19 were surveyed about their favorite fruit, with apples the stated choice across all ethnic and racial groups, researchers reported in the journal Pediatrics.

The survey was done as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Just 12 items accounted for around 86 percent of all fruit consumed by American kids, researchers found. Following whole apples and apple juice in preference were citrus juice, other fruit juices, bananas, melons, whole citrus, berries, peaches and nectarines, grapes and dried fruits.

The average U.S. child consumes around 1.24 cups, or 10.4 ounces, of fruit daily, the researchers found, with about half of that in the form of whole fruit.

That lands neatly within the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendations of 1 to 2 cups daily.

Whole fruit is the healthiest way to include fruit in the diet since it has no added sugar or fat and provides healthy fiber, experts say.

Although fruit juice – 100 percent pure without added sugar – is "still really good for you," says registered dietician Katherine Talmadge, it shouldn't be a child's only source of fruit.

It should be limited to around half a cup of juice a day.

"The rest should be whole fruit," says Talmadge, who was not involved in the study.

Even if kids prefer apples, "variety is crucial," she says, explaining children should be encouraged to sample a wider range of fruits.

Study author Kirsten Herrick with the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics agrees.

"They're a good fruit option, but there are a rainbow of fruits to consider that offer a variety of different minerals and vitamins," she says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a diet rich in both fruits and vegetables as a way to reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including diabetes and cancer.

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.