It's recommended we all eat AT LEAST 5 portions of fruits and vegetables each day. This is to make sure we're consuming a wide variety of nutrients, as our body needs a daily supply of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and function at its best. However the most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that adult men and women in the UK, aged between 19-64, are consuming just 4 portions on average each day.
If you find it hard to regularly hit 5 portions or more, try these simple tips to make 5-a-day a habit instead of a chore!
If you're going to reach at least 5 portions of fruit and veg for the day, it's best to start early. Make fruit or veg a staple part of breakfast – without exception! Add fruit to your cereal/porridge. Top your peanut butter on toast with a banana and have an apple on the side. Add chopped tomatoes to mashed avocado on toast. Mushrooms are great with scrambled egg on toast with a grilled tomato on the side. Aim for at least one 80g serving with breakfast – 1 down 4 to go!
No matter what you're having for lunch, there's always room for some fruit and veg. Whether it be cramming some salad into your sandwich, adding extra veg to your shop bought fresh soup, including a side salad with your baked potato or having a piece of fruit for afters – there are plenty of ways to make sure you include a portion with lunch.
Every dinner option invites a hefty serving of vegetables or salad, so make it your mission to include at least two portions with each meal – and have two different varieties. Chilli? Double helping of beans and tomatoes. Pasta? Chopped onion, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms always works. Bangers and mash? Accompany with a double helping of peas, carrots and sweetcorn. Pizza? Top it with a rocket and tomato salad. Whatever you're having, make sure there's a double serving of veg or salad in the dish or on the side. And aim for more than one type of veg.
Snacks can form a healthy part of any diet and especially if you base them around fruits and vegetables. Grab a couple of pieces of fruit for a mid-morning snack or have some chopped fruit and yogurt late afternoon. Mixed vegetable sticks (carrots, peppers, celery, cucumber) and dip are also a great way to get in your 5-a-day and keep your hands busy – a huge serving is very low in calories.
If you hide your fruit, it's easy to forget about it. So keep it visible in a bowl, and place it somewhere you are likely to walk past frequently. Also stock it with lots of colourful fruits to draw your eye – it's a really effective way of reminding you to grab a piece when you walk by.
Prepare a large tub of chopped fruit, and another tub of vegetable sticks such as carrot, pepper strips, celery and cucumber sticks at the start of the week. This will make it easy for you to spoon some chopped fruit onto your cereal in the morning, or pop veggie sticks into a lunch box to take with you to work. You could also portion out a smoothie mix of mixed berries into food bags and freeze so you've got an easy option for breakfast in a hurry. Just throw into the blender with a banana and yogurt, and you've got a healthy breakfast to go.
Vary your fruit and vegetable choices each week. You should be aiming for a rainbow of colours, because different colours means different nutrients. Mixing up your fruit and veg choices also helps to keep it interesting and alleviate boredom.
Have a mixed salad as a side to most dinners – or alternatively as a starter. It's a great way to reach your 5-a-day and can also help you to fill up on good stuff so you don't overeat when it comes to the more calorific main course. Just ensure you skip dressings unless low fat or balsamic vinegar, otherwise you could be upping your calorie intake unintentionally!
If you crave something sweet after a meal, rather than reaching for the biscuit tin, try eating some fresh fruit first. Fruit contains natural sugars which provide a great sweet hit and should satisfy your sweet tooth – and for less calories than a biscuit!
Put dessert back on the menu and enjoy chopped fruit and yogurt, or baked apple or pear with low fat custard or even strawberries dipped in a little melted chocolate. As long as it's calorie counted in your diary, it's a great way to increase your fruit intake for the day.
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.