So 5 portions of fruit and veg is no-longer good enough. The latest guidelines (Imperial College London) tell us that we need to eat 10! 10 I say. How many of us were actually managing 5 a day, everyday? So how realistic is it to consume 10 portions a day? 10 sounds a little daunting doesn’t it?
I thought I’d try and take a look at my own diet to see how many portions I am consuming a day and how I can sneak in a few extra portions of extra fruit and veg. I have to admit that today has actually been a pretty good day, but I certainly don’t achieve this every day.
- Homemade smoothie containing – spinach, raspberries, blueberries, half avocado, small
amount of orange juice c. 100ml , coconut water
- Small glass of orange juice c. 50ml
- Chicken salad containing – lettuce, cucumber, cress, potato salad, coleslaw, egg
- Red pepper and goat’s cheese quiche, broccoli, green beans, new potatoes
So today I have probably pretty much achieved my 10 portions. That is better than I was expecting. However changing my breakfast from a smoothie to a bowl of cereal or eating a sandwich for lunch instead of a salad would instantly have meant that I would have struggled to achieve 5 let alone 10.
But why are we being told to increase our number of portions? Actually it’s pretty serious stuff. Eating 10 portions a day will give you a better chance of of lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and premature death. Errrr …. ok then.
A 200g portion is associated with a 16% lower risk of heart disease. Eating 800g reduces this risk to 24%.
Let’s look at quick easy ways to sneak in a few more portions for when you are having a non-salad or smoothie day!
1. fruit juice – I have to say that I am very mindful of fruit juice due to its hidden sugars and limit how much I drink and how much my children drink. However a 150ml glass of unsweetened fruit juice counts as one of your 5 a day. But maybe this isn’t one to have every day.
2. cereal can be ok – if you’re having a cereal day (rather than a smoothie day – we all have them, I was weakened by a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes earlier this week – the shame!) then make sure that you add some fresh fruit my favourites include banana, raspberries, blueberries or strawberries. Do be mindful however of what cereal you are eating and try to avoid those loaded with sugar (cleanly unlike me earlier this week – eek as I quietly tip-toe to the corner of the room!). I have to admit though that rather than cereal, one of my favourite breakfasts is porridge with fruit.
3. snacks – snack alternatives such as celery/carrot and hummus are great – if you are organised. If not then I struggle with these. If I order celery for example on the food order, I have much greater success over the week if I chop it up and pop it in a tub in the fridge ready to eat. If I don’t do this then it doesn’t tend to get eaten. Celery (or carrot or cucumber) is a great snack alternative though as you’ll pick up a portion both from the veg and the hummus. Of course there’s fruit as well, although don’t just rely on fruit (read my recent article on how eating fruit and veg can reduce your stress and why it’s important to focus on the veg read now), and make sure that you don’t for example gorge on a large bag of grapes just because they taste sweet and lovely (I may have done this once or twice).
4. learn to love salads – whether you like them or loathe them they are good for you. You can pick up all sorts of prepared salads in no end of outlets these days. When at home try adding a handful of salad leaves to your meal for a quick extra portion.
5. don’t be precious about fresh produce – whilst we’d all love to eat everything fresh (in fact we’d love to be able to stroll through the garden picking everything fresh) in reality this is just not always possible whether that’s due to cost, seasonality or just life and being busy. But so many fruit and vegetables are available frozen these days. I now use a wide range of frozen fruit and veg ranging from mushrooms, to chopped garlic, herbs and raspberries.
6. vegetable soup – ideally you’d make your own soup (which is actually much easier than you think if you’ve never made it before) which you can make in a big batch and load with different vegetables. This will last for a few days in the fridge. I love making soup so will share a few recipes on the blog soon.
7. yoghurt – buy some plain yoghurt (I love the Greek Total Fage yoghurt) and add your own fruit mix to it. If you buy shop bought fruit yoghurt you’ll struggle to know exactly how much fruit is in it. Making your own, you will be in control. I always keep frozen raspberries to hand which are ideal for adding and will have melted if you plan to eat the yoghurt say as a snack at work.
8. extra veg in your dinner – be creative and sneak some extra veg into your home cooked creations. I try to cook from scratch as often as I can and onion and garlic are the basis for many meals. When cooking pasta dishes I will often wilt spinach into cooked, drained pasta or grate courgette into a stir fry. When cooking chilli fry some red pepper before adding the minced beef. The possibilities are endless just by being a little creative.
9. bye, bye potatoes – well not exactly but guess what they will NOT count towards your 10 a day. However good news for sweet potatoes, as they do count. These are a great alternative to standard potatoes. I like them best chopped up and roasted in the oven or made into home made wedges, baked in the oven. Butternut squash is also a firm favourite in my household, whether made into soup or roasted in the oven.
So how much is a portion?
- 150ml glass of unsweetened fruit juice
- 2 kiwi fruit
- 1 small banana
- 2 handfuls of blueberries
- 1 apple
- 2 broccoli spears
- 3 tbsp peas
- 3 dried apricots
- 1 tbsp raisins
- half an avocado
- half grapefruit
- 3 tbsp of beans or pulses (including baked beans, kidney beans, lentils)
- 3 tbsp hummus or guacamole (as long as the portion has 3 heaped tablespoons of chickpeas in it – so you may want to make this yourself).
- 8 cauliflower florets
- 3 heaped tbsp sweetcorn
- 1 small sweet potato
So definitely a few useful ways here to help sneak a few more portions into our daily diets. But remember just eat as much as you can every day. Don’t beat yourself up for not acheiving 10 portions maybe start by making sure that you achieve 5 portions then work up.
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on ways that you are achieving your 10 a day. Please share and I will add them to this blog.
Thanks for reading!