WE ALL know we should be chomping our way through at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but how do you square up to the recommendations? With new research suggesting the target should be closer to 10 portions, it can be quite a challenge to hit the mark.
WHAT IS A PORTION?
A portion of fruit of veg is 80g. That’s the equivalent of a small banana, three heaped tablespoonfuls of vegetables, or a pear. To keep things simple, think of a portion size as the size of your fist.
BUILD IT UP
Rather than get to the end of the day and try to squeeze lots of vegetables onto your dinner plate, get in early and start at breakfast time. Aim to have a portion at breakfast (berries on porridge, spinach with your eggs, avocado on toast), at least one at lunchtime (soups and salads are great), a snack or two of fruit or veg sticks and a couple of portions with dinner.
VARIETY IS IMPORTANT
The more different types of fruit and vegetables we can pack into a day, the better. The plant chemicals that give fruit and vegetables their distinct characteristics or colour, flavour and aroma provide us with amazing health benefits. Phytochemicals like quercetin found in onions and apples, lycopene from tomatoes or anthocyanin found in jewel coloured berries have been shown to support our immune system, feed our beneficial probiotic bacteria, protect our cardiovascular system and benefit our brain.
FRESH OR FROZEN?
Take another look at the frozen fruit and veg section in your local supermarket and you’ll find greens with a hint of garlic and mint to steam, herby Mediterranean vegetables for roasting, Asian-style veg for stir-fries and a whole host of berries, tropical fruit and fruit mixes. This is a great way to add variety to your diet, especially if you live on your own or are looking for something quick and handy to add an extra pop of nutrition to your diet.
Here are some simple ways to maximise your intake of fruit and veg without having to much your way through mountains of broccoli:
- Whiz up a soup: cook up any vegetables you like (or whatever needs used up), add some stock, a pinch of your favourite herbs or spices and blitz in a blender. Perfect to add extra vegetables to your midday meal, or working lunch.
- Try cauliflower rice or broccoli rice: you can buy these ready-made in the vegetable aisle or the frozen food section, but if you’d like to try making your own, simply break your cauliflower or broccoli into florets and whiz in your food processor until it looks like rice. I think the best way to cook it is in a wok with some olive oil or coconut oil.
- Try sweet potato wedges as a healthy alternative to chips
- Add some parsnip or cauliflower to mashed potato for the topping on fish pie or shepherds pie
- Add grated carrot to bolognese, curries or chilli
- Use tinned tomatoes or pasta to make pasta sauces, chilli or the base for your favourite curry
- Snack on veg sticks: carrot sticks, celery, peppers, sugar snap peas with healthy dips like houmous or tzatziki
- Have blueberries and natural yoghurt as a super healthy, simple and quick snack
- Try roasted cauliflower: cut into florets, drizzle with olive oil, add a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper, then roast at 180C for about 30 minutes. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over before serving.
- Look out for vegetable crisps made from kale, beetroot, sweet potato – or better still, try making your own.