Last week research was released that showed that the usual recommended 5 a day fruit and veg intake is insufficient, and for better health, we should actually be aiming for more than 7 portions. For some of us trying to eat that amount might seem a little daunting, so how do you fit it all in?
First of all, what is actually classed as a portion of fruit and veg? Here’s the NHS guidance which can be summed up to include fresh or frozen fruit and veg, tinned fruit and veg, but personally I would always try and choose fresh or frozen. Dried fruit can count for up to one serving a day, as well as juice and beans counting for up to one serving a day. I would also only count sweet potatoes once as well. You also need to seek variety, if you eat 3 apples, that still only counts as one serving.
So with all that in mind, here’s 10 ideas for getting your 7-10 portions of fruit and veg each day:
1. Two words: green smoothies. Start my green smoothie challenge and you’ll be well on your way to your 10 a day!
2. Get some veggies in at breakfast: in addition to green smoothies think adding veggies to an omelette, grated carrot, pumpkin puree or courgette to porridge, roasted squash with yoghurt and nuts or scrambled eggs or tofu with added veg.
3. Fruit is pretty easy to snack on, but try having more veg to balance things out. I love carrot sticks dipped in nut or seed butter and cucumber and pepper slices dipped in hummus (you could technically be getting in 3 servings right there)
4. Make salads your friend. They can easily be made to pack in 3-4 servings of veg, particularly if you add in a serving of beans such as chickpeas, lentils or black beans
5. Choose sweet potatoes and starchy veg like squash in place of grains at dinner
6. Always add finely chopped veg to pasta sauces and curries
7. Add lots of veg to omelettes and pizzas
8. Try and plan to have fruit and veg with each meal or snack. A good way to think of it is to aim for 3 servings of veg with lunch and dinner, that way you already have 6 servings and will be likely to get in at least 2 servings of fruit in addition to that easily.
9. Serve salad with everything – if you are having a wrap or sandwich add a handful of spinach. If you are having quiche, add a side salad etc
10. Experiment with using vegetables as alternatives to carbs, for example lettuce leaves in place of wraps and courgette ribbons in place of pasta. Just make sure you are still eating enough other food to feel full!
To give you an idea of how this could work, a day of eating could look like this:
- Breakfast – green smoothie with spinach, celery and a banana blended with almond milk (3 servings)
- Lunch – a salad with tuna, haricot beans, lettuce, red pepper and cucumber (4 servings)
- Snack – carrot sticks with peanut butter for dipping (1 serving)
- Dinner – salmon with stir fried courgette, cabbage, mushrooms, coconut milk and brown rice noodles (3 servings)
- Dessert – strawberries and greek yoghurt (1 serving)
Total – 12 servings of fruit and veg, with only 2 servings of that being fruit!
Don’t forget that you should be aiming to have the majority of those servings as veg, with added bonus points for leafy greens, rather than fruit. Fruit is great, but having more than 3 portions could be too much sugar. However, I always say you are better off eating fruit than less healthy sweet things, so just start where you are. If you need to eat fruit just to get a sweet hit instead of biscuits go with it! It’s also worth adding that it could be smart to slowly increase your intake of veg so that your digestion can handle them better. If you find that some veggies give you digestive trouble, experiment to see what works for your body and try different ways of preparing them. Sometimes well cooked veggies or blended or juiced veggies are a bit gentler on our guts.
Do you eat your 7 – 10 servings a day? Any other tips? What do you think of this new recommendation?
While I am not making an effort to tally up my veg/fruit servings..I must say I love all your suggestions. Big salads scare me nowadays ;) , but how is it that looking at your salads have the opposite effect and gets my mouth watering? I’m guessing the variety of textures and flavors going on – makes it more than just a bunch of raw leaves.
Veggies -if many servings eaten at once- have an uncanny ability to make my belly unhappy, but I have no problem with spreading small amounts through the period of the day. Which makes bringing veggies into snacks a good call :)
I think salads can be so underrated, I know the way I make mine they certainly don’t taste like a ‘diet’ food at all! It’s really good that you know what works for your body, I know they can be tricky for some peoples digestion!
I bought a Vitamix before Christmas and it has totally changed my fruit/ veg consumption! I have a massive smoothie every morning with fruit and veg and I’m almost there in terms of my 5 a day. I always put loads of veg in curries/ pasta etc. as well so I think generally I am pretty good. I just need to reduce my portion sizes and stop the other bad stuff creeping in there and I’ll be grand!
Ah I couldn’t live without my vitamix, they are amazing aren’t they! Sounds like you are doing really well (and lovely to hear from you again Linz!) x
I think that their guidelines are useful, but just guidelines. And I agree that variety is the most important- I mean I don’t weigh my salad but I know (by the packet size) that I don’t have 80g spinach when I have it, so technically it is not one portion, but when it is added to a salad with other veggies that is more beneficial. I think they are going to re-do some of the advice (I heard that they might remove juice from the guidelines- I hope they remove things like the tomato sauce in baked beans, as really that is a stretch!) but I like the “eat a rainbow” message and I think of people focus on getting in a variety of foods then they will get the variety of nutrients that they need.
I also think the whole demonising of fruit thing (which has happened in the media) is just silly. I mean of course vegetables are higher in fibre and lower in sugar than fruit, but fruit is a much healthier choice than a biscuit, or milkshake or whatever, and fruit still has loads of vitamins and antioxidants and who knows what else. Your post shows how it does not have to be hard to include a variety of fruits and veggies every day :)
Totally agree on the baked beans, I didn’t even know that one! Love the eat the rainbow message, so good for kids and adults alike.
Some great tips on how to eat more vegetables and fruits! I have to start experimenting with green smoothies really, haven’t tried that before, but I should. Thanks for the great article!
Oh give them a try, they are great, I promise you’ll be a convert!
I definitely will! You have some great resources on smoothies on your sites so I will refer to that!
Your salads look very delicious and i am sure they can vitaminize the body. Eating smaller meals more often throughout the day helps to regulate blood sugar. I try to do so, but whenever i have vitamin deficiency i fill the gap with supplements!
I do like my supplements but they’re no replacement for the real deal! It is good to eat small meals if that works for your body :-)
Yes of course i do agree that food is natural source of vitamins and nutrients that body needs. However sometimes i just fail to keep to my healthy diet. Thanks for your reply i will try to fix that!
I am pretty good with eating my fruit and veg there is the odd day that I eat barely any but it doesn’t happen very often!
I don’t know about you but I can not half feel the difference on those days, especially when I’ve been travelling!
Great tips- I usually do most of these things myself, I usually get 8-9 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (mostly veg).
I had my first green smoothie the other day :-) Spinach, mango, cucumber, coconut water and chia seeds.
Yum, that green smoothie sounds like a great combo! Hope you enjoyed it :-)
I was talking about the guidelines changing with the girls in my form at school the other day and discovered they only eat one/two servings of fruit and veg each day. I think when we return after the holidays I am going to dedicate a few tutor sessions to looking at improving diet and how important including fruit and vegetables is to them.
When i was younger I used to always be amazed how anyone could fit five portions in each day but now I think most days I’m probably closer to the newly recommended seven portions.
It always worries me when I talk to young people about their diets, really good that you have the opportunity to highlight some of this with them!
Great tips. I eat absolutely tonnes of fruit and veg, so certainly have no problem eating 7 a day, probably double if anything :P
I’m really trying to make sure I hit at least five a day, if not more. I also really need to eat more veg – as you say, fruit is such an easy choice that I always go for it, but my skin isn’t liking all that extra sugar. I love the idea of carrot sticks and nut butter – that’s going in my packed lunch this week!
I am trying to have more smoothies for breakfast, but find they just don’t fill me up for long enough. Do you have any tips, or do you normally eat something else as well as a smoothie?