According to the latest study from Imperial College London, we should be consuming ten portions of fruit and veg per day, and that upping our intake could prevent almost 8 million deaths worldwide per year.
It’s estimated that 80% of people are not managing to eat their 5-a-day, so if you’re wondering how you can double that amount, it’s actually easier than you might think.
Nutritionists have been saying for years that ten portions of fruit and veg per day is the amount of plant-based food to promote optimum wellness. And yes, it is possible.
10 ways to 10 a day
- Blend them. You can pack many portions into a juice or smoothie. Think kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, beetroot, carrot. The combinations are endless. The fact that they are blended or juiced makes the nutrients even more bioavailable and makes digesting them easy work. (I do not agree with the part of the study that says juices and smoothies only count as one portion regardless of how much fruit or veg you use. That simply doesn’t make sense!)
- Eat the rainbow. Get as many colours onto your plate as possible. It’s actually a fun challenge to see how many colours you can eat in a day. Think big trays of roasted Mediterranean vegetables, colourful slaws and veggie curries packed with spinach, onions and tomatoes. Most veg can be made into a delicious curry.
- Don’t forget breakfast. Ditch the nutritionally-void breakfasts of packet cereals, toast and croissants. Opt instead for natural yogurt with berries; porridge with grated apple; mixed fruit salad, or scrambled eggs and veggies.
- Masters of disguise. If you have to, hide your veg in tomato-rich sauces. This is especially effective for children who have become fussy eaters. Thinly grated carrot and courgette disappear beautifully in a spag bol sauce, and blending fresh spinach into pesto works wonders for my 5 year old.
- Know your portion sizes. Have a rough idea of what ten portions looks like. It’s about 800g in total, so 80g per portion. (30g for dried fruit). This roughly looks like: one apple, half a grapefruit, one banana, one orange, one pear, two kiwis, two broccoli spears, one tomato, eight cauliflower florets and three tablespoons of peas. So, in reality that’s a smoothie (banana, apple, pear, kiwi), a fruit snack (grapefruit), veg with lunch (steamed broccoli with fish for example) and a big cauliflower curry (cauliflower, peas, tomato). You’d actually use more veggies for these meals, as you’d likely use onions as well for the curry and more than one tomato.
- Don’t forget the freezer. Many vegetables pack more nutrients when frozen as they do when fresh. Keep your freezer stocked up with a variety of frozen veg for easy, healthy additions to your meals. Frozen berries are simply stunning in a smoothie, or blended to make a healthy fruit sorbet.
- Not all roots are equal. Potatoes do not count as they are just too starchy. Opt for parsnips, sweet potatoes and beetroot – roasted, or sliced into healthy, baked crisps. Once you’ve swapped cauliflower mash for your regular mash, it’s likely you’ll never look back.
- Go meat-free often. Trying out more veg-based recipes will automatically up your intake. Make veg the star of the meal and get creative.
- Take small steps. Increase your intake of fruit and veg slowly if you find the whole thing daunting. You’ll be surprised at how much plant-based food you can eat once you give it a go. And keep positive: according to the Imperial College study, just 2.5 portions of fruit and veg a day is associated with a 4% reduced rate of cancer, a 16% reduced risk of heart disease and an 18% reduced risk of stroke. The more veg you eat, the healthier you’ll be.
- Sweet treats. Beetroot chocolate cake anyone? Vegetables can be added to all manner of dishes. Avocados make a healthy chocolate mousse and carrots in a carrot cake can be plentiful. As long as the recipes aren’t loaded with refined sugars and flours, you’ll be benefiting from the veg within. Too much sugar and flour will negate the health benefits. Seek healthier recipes for your sweet treats.
Article by Jo Rowkins DipNT MBANT, nutritional therapist.
If you need help making your diet more healthy, Jo would be delighted to help you. You can consult with her in person, or online.