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?