Do you eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day?
We have heard this advice so much over the years, but I would take a bet that most of you don’t.
In fact, the advice now is that 5 portions is the minimum you should consume, and some nutritionists advise 10!
If you have been following me for a while, you will know I talk a lot about gut health and the importance of eating the rainbow on your plate, aiming for 30 different fruit and vegetables a week.
I like to think of it this way – 30 plant based points a week equals a healthy gut and a healthy gut equals a healthy body. Yet many adults still do not eat anywhere near enough fruit and vegetables.
I agree, it’s difficult to begin with, especially if you are used to eating meat and carbs at every meal. Simply adding more and more vegetables to the plate does not work and the kids will probably eat the bits they want and leave the extra vegetables.
So, if you are having a hard time getting your family or yourself to eat more fruits or vegetables then worry not, it’s a common problem and in this blog post I will look at ways that you can effortlessly sneak more vegetables into your diet.
I am a firm believer in eating everything in moderation. A diet high in processed foods, animal protein, sugar and no fruit or vegetables is a recipe for disaster, and will eventually allow disease to set in.
Eating lots of vegetables has so many health benefits and lowers the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
How about setting a goal – begin with aiming for 5 portions a day and work up from there?
A word of warning before we begin – you want to be eating more vegetables than fruit, children especially will eat lots of fruit as it’s sweet.
Fruits are best eaten in the morning as they are cleansers and vegetables eaten throughout the day as they are builders.
Also, potatoes, yams, cassava and plantain are vegetables, but don’t count towards your 5 a day as they mainly contribute starch.
Legumes, nuts and seeds
The good news is that beans and lentils count towards your 5-a-day. They count as 1 portion a day, however the quantity you eat. They are good sources of fibre and protein, but also contain essential vitamins and minerals.
Nuts and seeds also count as one a day so add toasted pumpkin seeds to salads, blend into smoothies or eat as a snack.
Clearly, if you don’t have a variety of fruit and vegetables in the house, then it will be harder to reach those goals.
For the ultimate nutritional values, go for fresh and organic fruit and vegetables. Shop local if you can, order a veg box or go to your farmers’ market. Include children in the shops so they can pick the ones they like.
Start the day right!
It’s so simple to add fruit to your breakfast. Think about adding berries, bananas or grated apples to porridge oats. You can keep some packs of frozen berries in the freezer. You can add fruit to an organic natural yoghurt.
Smoothies are a great way to pack in a whole variety of fruits and vegetables. Spinach is great to use as you can’t really taste it and you can add nut butters to give it a nice flavour. You can also add nuts and seeds.
Have eggs with spinach and tomatoes or add vegetables to an omelette.
Have fruits and vegetables cleaned, cut, and prepared for easy consumption. So when you open the fridge, they are ready to eat and you can enjoy them with some hummus or guacamole.
Offer fruit and vegetables as snacks whenever anyone is hungry. If your children like to graze, put some cut fruit and veg on a platter and let them help themselves.
Lunch and dinner
Have plenty of vegetables on the menu at every meal. Get into the habit of planning your meals on a weekly basis. I did a blog post on meal planning a few weeks ago.
Think about replacing the empty carbs like white bread, pasta, rice and potatoes with vegetables instead.
• Choose a baked sweet potato over a white one.
• Think about replacing rice with finely chopped cauliflower.
• Courgette ribbons make an excellent replacement to pasta.
• Try aubergine pizzas, simply slice and layer with sauce and mozerella.
• Quinoa can replace pasta or rice.
• Portobello mushrooms can be layered or eaten instead of a burger.
• Make veggie noodles with courgette and carrot.
• You can try making courgette or aubergine lasagne.
• Blend vegetables into sauces.
Try keeping jars of fermented vegetables in your fridge. This is a great way to boost your plant based points and fermented foods are fantastic for your gut.
One pot meals
These are a great way of getting a variety of veg into one meal!
As autumn draws near, soups are a great way to pack in a ton load of vegetables in one meal, and children tend to like them as well!
Add vegetables, meat and beans to stews and casseroles.
Everyone loves a curry! Try making a vegetable curry as a replacement or alongside your meat one.
The half plate rule
By ensuring that half of your plate of food at each meal is a fruit or vegetable, you should be able to meet or exceed your daily goals.
Eating the rainbow
Make it fun! Make a list of 30 fresh fruit and vegetables of different colours and stick it to your fridge. You want to group them according to their colour and tick them off as you eat them. If you have children, then get them involved.
The colour categories are:
Yellow & Orange
Blue & Purple
White & Brown
I really hope this blog has been useful and that you have found some simple ways of incorporating more vegetables and fruits into your diet. As you do so, you will naturally want to cut out the empty carbs and processed foods, but remember not to be hard on yourself – you aren’t going to get it right every day.