Often when individuals want to get healthier, they might think they have to ‘restrict’ things, but the first thing you should consider on your health journey is ADDING more fruit and vegetables to your diet!
Evidence shows there are significant health benefits to getting at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. That’s 5 portions of fruit and vegetables in total, not 5 portions of each. A portion of fruit or vegetables is 80g.
It’s important that you eat enough of them. However, data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS), an annual survey designed to assess the food consumption and nutritional status of a UK representative sample, has repeatedly shown over the last few years the population is still consuming not enough fruit and vegetables.
“I know I have to eat them, but fruit and vegetables just don’t excite me”
“How do I eat more vegetables at dinner? I really struggle.”
Common questions, but with some easy fixes….
1. Add fruit and vegetables to your favourite meals that have vegetables as part of their ingredients anyway e.g., Bolognese, curry, stir fry, fajitas, tacos, stews or casseroles
Try adding chopped carrots and onions to Bolognese sauce, sprinkle chopped red peppers on your pasta, or mix veg such as peas into mashed potato to make it even tastier. Add tomatoes to your omelette or mushrooms and green beans to your next stir-fry.
The biggest step is just choosing these sorts of meals more often and do this consistently.
By picking meals that make it EASY to have veg with, and that you LIKE, you will be increasing your vegetable intake without much effort at all.
2. The WAY that they are cooked and prepared makes a huge difference. Vegetables are so versatile and can be used for many different uses! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The trick is to not boil them to death. Roasting vegetables in the oven with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper are your best friends when it comes to flavouring oven-cooked veggies!
Here are some ideas to help you add fruit and veg to every meal:
Add fruit to cereal, porridge or yoghurt
Add grilled mushrooms, spinach or tomatoes to scrambled eggs
Add some crunch to your sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber or grated carrots.
Add beans, lentils and pulses to stews, soups, bakes and salads. Note that beans and pulses count as a maximum of 1 portion a day, however much you eat.
Have a salad or vegetable side dish with your main meal
Frozen fruit and veg count towards your 5 A Day. It only takes a couple of minutes to microwave some frozen peas, mixed vegetables or mini corn on the cob.
Tinned fruit and veg also count. It's healthier to choose fruit canned in juice rather than sugary syrup and vegetables tinned in water without added salt or sugar.
It's easy to add fresh, frozen or canned fruit and veg to meals. Sprinkle sweetcorn or pineapple chunks on top of a thin-base pizza or liven up soups and sauces with a handful of kidney beans, peas, sweetcorn or chickpeas.
Try making or choosing tomato or vegetable-based sauces as these are usually lower in fat than cream or cheese-based sauces.
If you do love creamy sauces you can make a healthier cheese style sauce made out of butternut squash, milk, garlic and nutritional yeast.
Swap sugary snacks, such as biscuits, for a piece of fruit.
Sticks of cucumber, peppers and carrot, and cauliflower or broccoli florets are delicious with dips such as hummus
Crispy kale crisps
By Abigail Attenborough