Eating more fruit and veg

I was asked on the back of the last post – that we should be eating 10 portions of fruit and veg – and as a little person how could she eat more – 5 portions of approx 80g was enough in terms of amount – any more and she felt that she wouldn’t be able to fit in anything else.


I think it is important to say that as yet there is not enough evidence to say we should all up the number of portions however the new evidence does support the ‘at least 5 portions’ and that more would be beneficial.


As a guide, health professionals give a guideline portion size of 80g.  That equates to an average apple, banana, a couple of plums, a couple of spoonfuls of veg.   It is not very practical to weigh all your portions so use your common sense – if you go to there is an adult pictorial resource that gives visual images of what standard portions served on plates would look like.


The 80g per portion is good for most adults but appetite and the amount you eat may mean that it is a struggle and really someone with a big appetite should eat more – this is where the ‘at least’ is particularly relevant.  If you are a strapping six footer and heading for second helpings then have more veg as well as the other stuff!


As for number of portions this is important because that is what gives the variety – fruits and vegetables are individual parcels of nutrients, each one is different bringing different amounts of fibre, micronutrients etc.  Different colours give an indication of this – reds and oranges and yellows are rich in carotenoids for example.  So it is important not to count 3 bananas as 3 portions – really they should be different!  There may be a great deal of benefit in having 7 different veg even if the amounts are smaller than 80g because of range of nutrients this provides.


“Having loads more fruit and vegetables makes it hard to fit other things in.” is something else that I have heard said too in regards to the eat more fruit and veg message.  Part of the reason that health professionals think that high amounts of fruit and veg are beneficial is that it displaces other foods, foods that we should be eating less of.  For example, you make a casserole.  Use the same amount of red meat but instead of just an onion, add a carrot, a sweet potato, some mushrooms, a parsnip….whatever suitable veg you have in your fridge, you could also add some beans, chick peas or lentils, whatever you fancy (experiment) – you end up with a huge pot of casserole that still tastes meaty and yummy but each portion you serve will have less meat in.  Many people in the UK could do with eating a little less red and processed meat which is achieved by extending meat dishes in this way.


In addition, you end up with more for your money.  In the example above, you have some leftovers to put on a jacket spud for lunch at work (or just a pot of it with some bread), stick some mash on top for a shepherd style pie, freeze some….  You save yourself some cooking, you eat more veg, eat a bit less red meat and maybe have a lunch to take to work.  Win, win.


If a couple of main meals a week you base the meal around the vegetables it is much easier to get 3 or 4 portions in one meal.  Stir fries, risottos, paella, pasta dishes, curries, chilli….all of these and more can be amazing meals with very little or no meat.  There are some fab veggie recipe books out there to inspire and tempt the tastebuds.


Similarly, when you reach for a snack have some fruit handy or a handful of nuts or some crunchy bits of vegetables – allow those things to displace one of the biscuits or chocolate bars or bag of crisps you might opt for.

It is important to say that if you want to eat more veg take it step by step.  Don’t start aiming straight away at where you need to be i.e. at least 5 a day.  Look at where you are.  If someone has no fruit or veg at all then 5 a day is going to be a huge mountain and they are put off before they start.  Think “how can I add one more veg or fruit to my day – how can I make that habit?”.  If you can add one portion most days then that is great.  Then think how can I add another.  Life is too busy to change your whole way of eating in one go.  Step by step is the way forward.

The most important message is just eat more plant based foods – every time you cook or prepare food or make a food choice ask yourself whether you can add some to this meal, this snack etc.  Sometimes the answer will be no or you can’t be bothered or it just isn’t appealing but lots of other times it will be a yes.

  • Frozen veg and canned veg and pulses are a real help – you don’t waste as much so it is less likely to cost you more.  It means that there is always some on hand.
  • A meat and two veg dinner should be meat and 3 (make the meat a little smaller to make room)
  • Make soups (I know the weather won’t be good for soup soon) – its hard to make soup without loads of veg.
  • Always add loads of veg to casseroles, stews, curries, risottos, bolognaise, chilli etc
  • Think of pulses as another veg – add handfuls of red lentils to soups, bolognaise, curries etc or try some of the really good canned beans.
  • Find some veggie recipes – you can always add a little bacon, chicken or fish to a recipe if you can’t manage without it but make the meat an accompaniment to the veg rather than the other way around.

More veggie recipes on the way – I promise!!


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