Fruit and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fibre which is very important to maintain a healthy gut. They can also reduce your risk of some cancers (like bowel cancer), stroke and heart disease.
I’m sure every person in the UK knows by now what 5-a-day means – eat 5 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. But what those 5 servings look like? I don’t want to eat 5 bowls of salad every day!
Well, apparently, it isn’t as hard and as much as it may sound. Only 80g of fruit or vegetables count as 1 portion. So that can be a medium apple, half avocado, 5 spears of asparagus, 3 tablespoons of cooked beans, 3 tablespoons of shredded carrots, half a pepper, 1 medium sweet potato and so on. You can find the whole list here.
To be honest, I was surprised that beans are included in 5-a-day. It’s not just green salad after all! Although, legumes count as one portion, no matter how much you eat as long as it’s at least 80g. Potatoes don’t count as 5-a-day, unfortunately. Usually they are eaten in place of other source of starch, like rice, pasta or bread.
- Sweeten your breakfast
Add one or two portions of fruit or berries to your morning porridge. One banana to make your porridge sweet and some frozen raspberries for some sourness and extra vitamins, also add some cinnamon and pumpkin seeds or walnuts for Omega 3 fatty acids and you have a delicious and nutritious breakfast. If you don’t feel that hungry in a morning, or don’t have time to make a porridge, just grab a fruit of your choice to have it on a go to work.
- Upgrade your toast
For a light lunch or a snack, try an avocado or mashed banana toast. My favourite avocado toast is with a mashed avocado, mixed with diced sun dried tomatoes and with different toppings, like fresh tomatoes, radishes, red pepper, sauerkraut, shredded carrots or beetroots. Sometimes for a snack or a dessert I have a toast with peanut butter and banana or fresh berries (I sprinkle some cinnamon too).
- Make your sandwich
Make your own sandwich instead of buying it from a shop on your lunch break. That way you will be in control how much of veggies you put in it. Spread your bread with avocado instead of mayo or butter, add some spinach, cucumber, radishes, beetroots, sprouts, cooked mushrooms, or any vegetable you like. Sample different fillings every week so you never get bored.
- I have to mention salads
Salad isn’t just a boring bowl of lettuce. Salad can be cold or warm, with legumes or grains, with fresh or roasted vegetables. There are thousands of recipes online and in cook books so you literally can eat different salad every single day for an entire year. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Colour your roast dinner
Along your usual potatoes, roast some parsnips, swede, peppers, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and mushrooms. Different vegetables contain different combination of fibre, minerals and vitamins so it is important to have variety of vegetables to have a balanced diet.
- Legumes aren’t just for ‘beans on toast’
Although it counts as one 5-a-day portion only, even if you eat more than 80 grams of them, legumes are very important part of a healthy diet. You can add them to soups, stews, chilli, salads, have as a side dish or roast chickpeas as a crunchy snack.
- Stock on tins of chopped tomatoes
It is a good idea always have a tin of chopped tomatoes on hand when you cook pasta, spaghetti Bolognese or chilli, instead of using ready-made sauces which usually are packed with sugars and preservatives. Just think, by adding a tin of tomatoes, lentils and some spinach to your pasta you are already getting about 3 portions of veggies out of 5 you should eat a day. How simple is that!
- It’s a soup season!
Autumn is a perfect season for soups and stews. Pumpkin soup anyone? 80g of vegetables count as 1 portion, so if you cook for two, make sure to add 160g of mixed vegetables to your soup to have one of your 5-a-day. Add some beans to your veggie stew and have a side salad for extra vitamins and minerals. How to make always a delicious soup, watch here.
- Reach for a snack bowl
How often we eat with our eyes – we see it and we reach for it just because it’s there. Have a bowl of fresh fruit on your table where you can see it and easily reach for a fruit. Have prepared carrot sticks, celery, pepper or broccoli so you can grab it with a hummus whenever you feel like snacking. I’m not so keen on advising dried fruits as a snack. They have a big concentration of sugar and so it would be wise to limit your dried fruit intake to 30g per day. Same goes with fruit juice – basically you just drink a sugary water as most of the fibre has gone with a fruit pulp. Limit your fruit juice to 150ml a day to control your sugar intake.
- Prep and freeze
If you have chopped vegetables in your fridge you are more likely to eat them. And if you have some nutritious leftovers in your freezer, it is easier not to order pizza on those lazy days but instead just heat up your home made food.
As you can see it’s not as hard to get those five portions of fruit and veggies as we may have thought. Breakfast alone can contain 2 portions of fruit so we’ll need only 3 more portions of vegetables during the day. Simple!