Updated: Jun 25
A survey in 2014 by the BBC Good Food Nation indicated that nearly two thirds of the population are not achieving their 5 a day, with only 21% of 16–24-year-old achieving this . Although this survey indicated some scepticism surrounding the 5 a day campaign, there are many benefits to consuming adequate portions of fruit and vegetables, meeting the 5 a day recommendation is thought to reduce risk of developing health conditions such as strokes, heart disease and type 2 diabetes . Eating fruit and vegetables increases vitamin and mineral intake as well as providing dietary fibre which aids normal function of the digestive system . One portion of your 5 a day equates to around 80g of fresh or frozen produce, but an easier visual guide which works well for children is using a handful of produce as a portion. This works well because as children grow, and their hands grow larger, their portion sizes also increase . See this great guide from the British Heart Foundation for more detail.
1. Make little swaps
If your meals tend to be based around meat, don't feel like you have to make radical changes to your diet. Consider reducing the meat content of your meal and swapping a percentage out for a plant source.
For example, if you're making a shepherd’s pie, replace half the mince for some lentils which are an excellent source of fibre and potassium, whilst being low in fat and sodium. Or consider reducing the chicken in your stir fry and bumping up the vegetable content, perhaps some leafy greens like pak choi for a boost of vitamin A and C.
2. Eat a rainbow
Variety is key, otherwise eating fruit and vegetables can feel a bit repetitive and uninspired. Make your plate look more exciting with a wide range of colourful fruit and vegetables. Making sure you're eating from every colour group will ensure you gain a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Take a look at this great infographic from the British Heart Foundation to see the 'Rainbow of Nutrients' .
Get children involved in making sure they 'eat their rainbows': Ask your child to draw a rainbow containing the following colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Whenever your child is having a meal, bring this drawing to the table and work together to find the fruits and vegetables in their meals which fit into the rainbow, and if there are any gaps, ask your child to think of something they could add eat to complete their rainbow. See if you can eat the whole rainbow in a day!
3. Whizz it up
Soups and sauces can be an excellent way to pack in lots of vegetables, they often require little preparation and can be made in larger quantities suitable for future meal preparation. These can be a great way to get children eating more vegetables without having to battle fussy eaters.
Jamie Oliver's 7-veg tomato sauce recipe is perfect for this, and has the ability to elevate simple meals like pasta and tomato sauce, into a nutritious meal with very little impact on taste. This particular recipe can be adapted depending on seasonal vegetable and made in larger quantities to be stored in the freezer for quick midweek meals.
Similar to tomato sauce, this Moroccan roasted vegetable soup is also a great source of vegetables, containing root vegetables such as carrots and butternut squash which are excellent sources of vitamin A and C. It can easily be adapted to whatever is in the fridge, making a hearty, nutritious lunch and suitable to be made in advance for busy working days.
4. Start off strong!
Adding either fruit or vegetables to your breakfast can contribute to having an energised and nutritious morning and means you can get a good start on your five a day. Breakfast is often deemed the 'most important meal of the day' due to its effect on alertness and fuelling the day . So why not enhance this further by adding 1 or 2 portions of fruit and or vegetables to boost the nutritional content. Here are some ideas:
· Top your porridge with a chopped apple and some cinnamon for a warm, spiced start to your day.
· Add some chopped tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms to your scrambled eggs for a boost of vitamin A and C.
· Top your pancakes with fruit and yoghurt, sliced nectarine and raspberries are a great combo for a refreshing source of fibre, vitamin C and calcium.
· Add some chopped strawberries and blueberries to your granola for a sweet source of antioxidants and fibre.
5. Simple snacks
Healthy snacking does not mean eating plain celery reluctantly. They can most definitely be exciting, nutritious, and tasty. And as an additional bonus they can contribute to your 5 a day. Here are some great ideas:
· Sliced apples and peanut butter
· Carrot sticks and hummus
· Greek yoghurt and mixed berries
· Baked sweet potato wedges
· Spiced roasted chickpeas
6. Make your desserts count!
If you're like me and you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you often find yourself craving something sweet after dinner. So why not make desserts count and include one or two of your five a day. Here are some great ideas for some desserts that can really make an impact on your day:
· Fruit crumble - why not swap a traditional fruit crumble for this healthy topping, simply choose your favourite fruits and place them in the bottom of an oven-proof ramekin and top with this lovely, fibre-filled crumble recipe from Deliciously Ella, then bake until fruits are soft and the topping is a lovely golden brown.
· Grilled Pineapple - if you haven't tried this before, it's an absolute game changer, follow these Healthy Little Foodie instructions to perfect pineapple, top with a little ground cinnamon for an extra warmth.
· Homemade ice lollies - as summer is approaching, homemade ice lollies are an excellent alternative to shop-bought ice lollies, as you know exactly what has gone in them. Why not try these rainbow fruit lollies, watermelon lollies or sunshine lollies for a fruity summer punch.
7. Plan ahead
If you find your meals to be an afterthought due to a busy lifestyle, consider planning ahead. This doesn’t have to be extensive planning with weight meals etc but having a rough idea of what three meals you’ll be having in a day, and when you’ll have time to prepare them, can be an absolute game changer. Within this if you determine where your 5 a day fits in, you’ll have no problems reaching that goal every day! Here are some tips which could help out with this:
· Make a note – write your plans down or have them on your phone, as this will help you keep to them. Consider determining when you’ll have time to prepare meals you’ll have planned, and if the plan is feasible and fits in with your busy schedule.
· Keep it big – Prepare in bulk, similarly to the pasta sauce mentioned above, you can prepare in bulk and either freeze, or store in the fridge for use later in the week, this will help you stick you your plans and cut down your overall prepping time.
· Waste not – When making your meals, consider prepping an extra portion for lunch or dinner the next day, or storing, and freezing extra portions for a later date.
8. What's in season?
With the majority of fruits and vegetables being available in supermarkets year-round, it can make it difficult to tell what's actually in season. Shopping seasonally can be beneficial to both the consumer, and the farmer, as eating seasonally reduces the food miles of produce meaning that it can be grown in Britain so less transport is required, due to less transportation costs, this can often mean that locally grown produce is cheaper for the consumer. Check out this Seasonal Veg Table from VegPower for more information . You can also visit the Eat them to Defeat them campaign by VegPower for some great recipes and resources .
Growing your own fruits and vegetables at home can also be an excellent, cost-effective way to increase your fruit and veg intake, and research has indicated that children are more likely to eat produce which has been grown at home. Fruit-picking farms are a fun family day out and a great way to support local businesses and get children involved and inquisitive about the farming process, which encourages them to try new foods. If you're unsure of where your local fruit-picking farm is, have a look at this link .
9. Upgrade your salads
Often when people use the word 'salad', people roll their eyes and instantly look for something a bit more exciting. With a little bit of prep, you can upgrade your salads to not only make them more exciting and tastier, but also increase the nutritional value. Here are a few tips to adding some excitement to your salads:
· Roasted butternut squash cubes
· Toasted seeds - a crunchy addition with an omega boost.
· Grated carrots
· Roasted chickpeas - a protein-packed, flavourful ingredient.
· Homemade dressings - a simple honey mustard dressing does wonders for adding flavour!
10. Drink up
Smoothies are often avoided as they can be high in sugar, but they can be bulked out with yoghurt, nuts, and vegetables to make an excellent source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and contribute to your 5 a day. Here are some recipe ideas:
· Strawberry Green smoothie: an excellent source of antioxidants, iron, vitamin C and prebiotics.
· Kefir smoothie: a great source of prebiotics, vitamin A and C.
· Vitamin Booster smoothie: a fibre-filled, vitamin C boost.
1. Jamie Oliver’s 7-veg tomato sauce recipe - https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/seven-veg-tomato-sauce/
2. Moroccan Roasted Veg Soup - https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/moroccan-roasted-vegetable-soup
3. Deliciously Ella’s Apple and Blackberry crumble - https://www.waitrose.com/home/recipes/recipe_directory/d/deliciously-ellasappleandblackberrycrumble.html
4. Healthy Little Foodie’s Grilled Pineapple - https://www.healthylittlefoodies.com/grilled-pineapple/
5. Rainbow Fruit Lollies - https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/rainbow-fruit-lollies
6. Watermelon Lollies - https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/watermelon-lollies
7. Sunshine Lollies - https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/sunshine-lollies
8. Strawberry Green Smoothie – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/strawberry-green-goddess-smoothie
9. Kefir Smoothie – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/kefir-breakfast-smoothie
10. Vitamin Booster Smoothie - https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/vitamin-booster-smoothie
Thanks to this week's blog writer Anushka Jadav, she is a recent graduate from the University of Reading. She has spent the past 4 years studying Nutrition with Food Consumer Sciences with Professional Training, and is now very excited to embark on new experiences as a graduate! She is currently seeking a full time nutrition role, in her down-time she loves to read, cook and bake. You can find Anushka on Instagram where she posts her bakes (@anushka_bakes) and sources lots of new recipes and techniques to challenge herself.
1. BBC Good Food Nation (2015). Nearly Two Thirds of Population Do Not Eat 5-a-day. Available at: https://www.immediate.co.uk/nearly-two-thirds-of-population-do-not-eat-5-a-day-indicates-bbc-good-food-study/ [7th June 2021]
2. British Heart Foundation (2021a). A Rainbow of Nutrients. Available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/0ae8e54efa5d39d22a1db52a8ec18a25/a-rainbow-of-nutrients/index.html [7th June 2021]
3. British Heart Foundation (2021b). Eat Your Five a Day. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/-/media/files/publications/healthy-eating-and-drinking/portion-guide.pdf [7th June 2021]
4. NHS Choices (2021). Why 5 a Day? Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/why-5-a-day/ [7th June 2021]
5. Pick Your Own Farms (2021). Find a pick-your-own Farm near you! Then Learn to Preserve and freeze! Available at: https://www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk/ [7th June 2021]
6. Public Health England (2008). Statistical Press Notice: National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Results from Years 1, 2, 3 and 4 combined. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/310998/NDNS_Statistical_press_notice_14May2014.pdf [27th May 2021]
7. Ramsden, J. (2018). Seasonal eating: Does It matter? The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/aug/12/seasonal-eating-vegetables-uk-does-it-matter [7th June 2021]
8. Saint Louis University (2007). Children Eat More Fruits and Vegetables If They Are Homegrown. ScienceDaily. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070418163652.htm [7th June 2021]
9. Spence, C. (2017). Breakfast: The most important meal of the day? International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science. 8(8), pp.1–6. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878450X17300045.
10. VegPower (2020). Eat Them to Defeat Them. Available at: https://eatthemtodefeatthem.com/ [7th June 2021]
11. VegPower (2021). VegPower. Available at: https://vegpower.org.uk/seasonal-veg-table/ [7th June 2021]