Really. Back in February 2017, the 5 a day message was challenged by a report by Imperial College to say that for optimum health, we should all be eating double the national guidelines, so 10 portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
So, naturally, I’ve been giving that a red hot go and getting close most days, only for a major study called the PURE study to come out last week stating that although there were significant health benefits to eating fruit, legumes and vegetables, these seemed to plateau at 4 portions per day. Have my efforts been a waste of time??!!
They haven’t – I feel good eating more plant stuff and although it’s good to keep abreast of the latest research, there comes a point when you have to follow your instincts and pick your own way through the conflicting reports. On the positive side, my kids are closer to 4 a day than 10 so I might just dial down my maternal guilt in that area…
As a starting point – do you know how much of something counts as one of your 10 a day? I didn’t until recently. The portions are actually smaller than I thought, e.g. 3 tablespoons of peas, ½ an avocado or a large carrot. There’s a handy list here and you might find that your intake is higher than you think. You’re not supposed to count any one item twice though because the goal is for lots of variety and to ‘eat the rainbow’ . I also think that having raw as well as cooked vegetables is a good idea, and that cruciferous vegetables have so many health benefits that they should be on the menu once or twice a day.
What worked for me.
- Getting off the mark at breakfast. I pretty much always have a smoothie with berries and banana, but other ideas would be to add apple compote, blueberries or other fruit to porridge, have a green smoothie, put avocado and lemon on toast or chuck some spinach into scrambled eggs.
- Replace a sandwich at lunch with a salad. It doesn’t take long to throw one together and to fill you up, just make sure that you include something rich on top – some tinned oily fish, some crumbled feta, avocado, you get the picture. Sometimes, the thing that gets to me about this is that actually eating it can be time consuming, but Ali has a great method of attacking the salad in the bowl with a pair of scissors which makes things much quicker. (Yes, I know that we are supposed to allow time and be relaxed and mindful with our meals but….life).
- Dress vegetables with something lovely to make them more appealing. I have a recipe for a great dressing below, but whether it’s a vinaigrette or a knob of butter on your carrots, as well as tasting great, the oil/butter in dressings enables us to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. No fat, no absorption.
- Add an extra vegetable at dinner time. We always used to have at least one and it’s not much effort to add another. This might be a good time to try new things that aren’t usually on your shopping list.
- Juicing. Juicing is currently out of favour because if you use a big juicing machine all the fibre is stripped out so the sugar is quickly absorbed, and spikes your blood levels. It’s because of this that even if you put tons of hugely nutritious things in your juice it only ever counts as one of your 10 a day. On the other hand, if you don’t put much fruit in, you can get loads of micronutrients in one quick hit and avoid the sugar rush. I crave my daily juice, and credit it with a massive reduction in the headaches I used to suffer from (Note: personal experience only, not recommending this as a remedy for anyone else). Of course if you have a Nutribullet, you keep all of the great fibre, but if you can manage the consistency of a veg-heavy smoothie, you’re a better person than me!
Let me know your top tips for eating more fruit and vegetables, and if you have anything that your kids love, please share them because those recommendations are like gold dust!
Recipe: Tahini Lemon Dressing
- 2 tablespoons of tahini
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 1 teaspoon miso paste
- ⅓ american cup (equals 5 tablespoons) of water
If you have a stick blender, just blend all of this up in a cup, or you can whizz it in a blender/food processor. It’s great on salads and just FYI, the tahini will give you minerals, including magnesium and calcium, the lemon juice will help you absorb the iron in your leafy greens, and the miso paste is a fermented food so you’ll be supporting your gut health.
Variation: Add half a clove of crushed garlic and half a teaspoon of cumin for a middle-eastern vibe. Goes really well with roasted veggies.
Book recommendation: How to Eat Better by James Wong. This a gorgeous colourful book full of great information with recipes and storage tips that help to get the maximum goodness from your fruits and veggies.Follow me on facebook or twitter.