You probably know that the government recommendation is to consume at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but for optimal nutrition, you really want to aim for more like 10! Yes, this does sound rather a lot, but actually, if you get into some healthy habits, its not too difficult at all. To get you started I’ve put together a few of my top tips on sneakily getting in extras. I promise, you’ll be at 10 before you know it!
Firstly, its worth noting what a portion is. In general, think of a handful. So a small apple, a medium tomato, a couple of broccoli florets or a peach would all be one portion. In grams, it’s around 70-80g, although for uncooked leaves (salad, spinach etc) it will be less than this. Fruit juice does count, but shouldn’t be more than one portion a day. Although the vitamins and minerals are there (especially in fresh juice), by removing the pulp, you are taking away the fibre which is a key benefit of vegetables and fruit. The NHS advice is here.
1. Start your day with a smoothie. Starting at the start of the day (always the best place to begin), breakfast is such an easy way to get two or three portions of fruit or veg, but how many of you just have a cup of coffee and toast?! Maybe you add fruit juice to feel healthy, but you are much better off swapping this for a smoothie or mixed fruit and vegetable juice. I try to stick to a simple formula of two veg (e.g. spinach, celery, cucumber, carrots) and one fruit (pretty much anything! Bananas and avocados give a lovely creamy smoothie texture). Fresh ginger, lemon and lime juice can also add extra flavour, and adding a spoonful of natural yogurt is great for smoothies. Use a blender rather than juicer, so you aren’t removing all the fibre from the fruit and veg (you can buy very inexpensive blenders and it is a piece of kitchen equipment well worth having.
2. Add fruit or veg to your breakfast. Sticking with breakfast, there are so many ways to incorporate fruit and veg. Like to start the day with something sweet? Add fresh berries to your cereal, yogurt or overnight oats, or poached fruit (stone fruit, pears, apples) to porridge in winter. Top pancakes and waffles with any fruit you fancy or even make pancakes from bananas. More of a savoury fan? Avocado on toast will probably never go out of fashion, and grilled tomatoes and mushrooms perfectly accompany eggs.
3. Make your snacks fruit or veg based. Try making hummus with added vegetables, like this beetroot one (recipe here). Then eat it with vegetable crudités. Fruit always makes a good snack, but to make it easier to carry around, try drying out slices of apple in the oven. Slices of apple, fresh or dried, are particularly good dipped in peanut butter too!
4. Soup for lunch. I could eat soup for lunch every day, from thick and warming root vegetable soups in winter, to cold gazpacho in summer, the variations are endless and it is easy to tick off two portions of vegetables in a bowl full.
5. Add fruit (or even veg) to baking. Instead of chocolate muffins and vanilla cupcakes, try apple and bran muffins, courgette and chocolate cake, pear and ginger loaf or sweet potato chocolate brownies!
6. Vegetable heavy dinners. Two of my favourite dinners that can easily provide 3 or more portions of vegetables are stir fries and noodle bowls. Both benefit from the fact that you can use any combination of vegetables you like. Seasonal for the autumn, try carrots and courgettes (spirallised or cut into thin ribbons), mushrooms and celery in a noodle bowl, and add a handful of kale for a stir fry. Then top with protein of your choice (meat, fish, tofu..) and a handful of fresh herbs if you have them
7. Finish off with a fruity dessert. If you have a sweet tooth, then give into the craving in a healthy way! Crumbles are particularly good through autumn and winter, find the recipe for my oath apple crumble here. Or how about simple baked apples, a soft fruit fool or poached pears?