Recently, we looked at the latest research from Imperial London College on increasing fruit and veg intake to 10 portions a day. However, research also shows that 70% of adults are struggling to get their 5 day let alone doubling this. How can we fit all of this extra fruit and veg into the day?
First, lets take a closer look at what 10 a day looks like to get an idea of what we are dealing with. 10 portions of fruit and veg equates to 800 grams in total. That is 80 grams per portion. Here are some examples of one portion of fruit or veg:
● ½ cup steamed vegetables
● 1 cup of leafy vegetables
● 1 medium size piece of fruit
● ½ cup of chopped fruit.
With this in mind, a daily consumption of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables could be comprised of the following:
● 1 cup of steamed broccoli (2 servings)
● 1 cups of leafy vegetables such as kale or rocket. (1 serving)
● 1 apple (1 serving)
● ½ cup of strawberries (1 serving)
As we know, most people are not getting this in their diet on a daily basis so doubling this amount just makes it very daunting and somewhat unrealistic.
While it’s great that we have scientists providing evidence of the benefits of healthy diets and how fruit and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease, in most cases, the research is not accompanied with any advice on how we can implement these changes in our lives.
So here are 10 things you can do to start your journey towards 10 a day. I’m not a big fan of making forklift upgrades in the diet. Making big changes in our diet may work well in the short term while we are enthusiastic and motivated but typically fizzle out within a few weeks. Change is more about taking many small steps along the way and building momentum. When we see progress in our journey, it provides positive feedback and we feel good about it which boosts our motivation.
1. Start with Five a Day
This is the starting point so that we’ve got our bases covered. Research shows that getting our five a day significantly reduces the risks of chronic disease. With a bit of thought and preparation, getting 5 a day into the daily routine shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. 1/2 a cup of berries with breakfast, an apple mid morning, a portion of vegetables with lunch, another piece of fruit mid afternoon and some
more vegetables with an evening meal. Job done!
2. Use Smoothies as a Booster.
We can get a few additional servings of fruit and vegetables in our diet by making smoothies. There are hundreds of recipes to choose from so something for everyone. I started experimenting with these a few years ago when I bought a Nutribullet. Here are a few ideas for some very nutritious smoothies.
3. Fruity Breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal of the day and can set you up for the day. However, with busy schedules, school runs and commuting, breakfast can get a back of the bus position with a bit of toast and coffee. Why not swap the toast for something like porridge and fruit. It doesn’t take long to make a bowl of porridge with 1/2 a cup of of mixed berries. You can buy bags of frozen mixed berries from the supermarket which have all the nutrients and polyphenols of fresh fruit. Research shows that berries can blunt the glucose and insulin response when you consume them with sugars or a high carbohydrate meal.
4. Fruity Snacks
When you are feeling peckish between meals, why not eat some fruit like an apple, banana or orange. How about some carrot batons and a handful of mixed nuts too. It's a great way to add healthy nutrients to your diet and keep you blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day. Eating fresh whole fruits won't cause a sugar spike as the fruits contain fibre which slows down digestion.
5. Well Stocked Freezer
Buying fresh fruit and veg is great but lets not forget that frozen fruit and veg is just as good. Supermarkets stock a wide range of frozen fruits and veg these days and we can buy bags of mixed berries, strawberries and bananas, mixed veg that can all be used to make quick smoothies or to put into your porridge.
6. Fruit Bowl
Having a bowl full of fruit on the dining table not only looks nice but I’ve found that if fruit is easily available and visible, it gets eaten more often. I’ve even noticed that my kids are eating more fruit because it is readily available in the fruit bowl.
Making a delicious soup is a great way to get more vegetables in your diet. You might not like broccoli on your dinner plate, but put it a soup with some other vegetables and it can taste delicious. Soup can make a nice meal on its own with some freshly baked wholemeal bread or as a starter. There's nothing like a bowl of hot, creamy soup to warm you up when it's cold outside.
Making up a fresh, zesty salad is another great way to eat more fruit and veg. I like to have a fresh salad drizzled with lemon juice as a side dish to a main meal. Even basic salads with tomatoes, sweet peppers and greens, are chock-full of antioxidants as well as fibre.
Its tempting to think that we could just eat 3 cups of strawberries or 5 apples a day and we are covered, but the idea is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to get a wide range of nutrients throughout the week. It keeps it interesting too.
10. Compelling Reasons
It’s all well and good thinking about increasing our fruit and veg intake but we need to have some compelling reasons to do this. We probably all instinctively know that we should more fruit and veg but the fact remains that most people aren’t! There is a concept called 'activation energy' that moves us from doing nothing to taking sustainable action. We need a lot of this activation energy if we are to overcome the inertia of staying the same and sticking to our same old routine. I have found that if we don’t have any compelling reasons for doing something, then we won’t sustain that activity over the longer term. So you have to figure out your compelling reasons. Here are some of mine to give an idea:
So there we have it. 10 tips to help you on your journey to 10 a day. There are going to be days when we don’t get close to 10 a day. That’s fine, life sometimes throw us a curve ball. However, the point is that over the long term, we are heading in the right direction and we are tipping the odds in our favour of avoiding chronic disease and living a long healthy life.
Sports & fitness nutritionist, researcher and author on a mission to improve the human condition. Focusing on evidence-based and outcome-based nutrition, training, mindset & environment