Nutrition: 8 - 10 portions fruit and veg part 1

Tuesday 08 May 2018

Experts are now promoting that we should be eating 8-10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. As you know I have been blogging about this for a long time, in fact years, that this is what we should be trying to do.

In brief, it explains the research behind these headlines, the benefits, and importantly the fact that it may be achievable for most of us. With this in mind, I thought that in this blog I would focus more on how it could be achieved. I want to start by putting some general ideas down and then look at some daily menus that easily incorporate 8-10 portions.

You may be surprised how easy it could be. Think of the following;

  • Imaginative salads using a wide variety of colourful vegetables. This could include some or all of the following: beetroot cooked or grated raw, peppers sliced or grilled then sliced, sweet corn, rocket, grated carrots, grated courgettes, red onions as well as the standard lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Note: always wash your vegetables well if they are going to be eaten raw.
  • Soups are fabulous - homemade is best but the fresh soups from the chill counters of the super markets are fine. I would avoid the creamy ones and focus on the vegetables/lentil/bean sorts. Soups freeze really well.
  • Smoothies using a mixture of fruits and vegetables. A good starting point is celery, apple and carrot, or mango, apple and banana. I use the frozen mango chunks from the freezer section of the supermarket. Whiz these up with some coconut, almond, or soya milk to make an addition to a breakfast. You can get many good recipe books on smoothie blends.
  • Stir fried vegetables using olive oil or coconut oil and 1 tblsp of water. The water creates a steam fry and prevents the fat from becoming overheated and therefore damaged.
  • Oven baked vegetables, again using olive oil. A mixture of carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato or a mix of courgettes, aubergine, red onion and peppers. Or of course your own mixture. One thing that I quite often do is to bake a whole butternut squash. So easy, no preparation needed. The flesh will scoop out of the skin as a vegetables portion or to add to a soup or to make a mash.
  • Stews and casserole which contain lots of vegetables are particularly nourishing as we have the stock with the meal and so do not lose valuable nutrients.
  • A steamed medley using a range of colourful vegetables cooked in the same trivet. Healthy and saves washing up.
  • Vegetable tagines. You can use a wide variety of vegetables and use the Moroccan spices to add flavour.
  • Frozen vegetables are a very good standby and can often have more nutritional value than some fresh food that has been around a while or has lots of air miles on it. Once a vegetable or fruit is harvested the nutritional value starts to deteriorate. Frozen vegetables and fruits are usually frozen within hours of harvesting and this preserves the nutritional value.
  • If time is short make the most of the ready prepared vegetables. Remember that these can be more expensive as you have paid someone for the labour but they have a place occasionally.

Thinking of this list above, at times it is worth thinking ahead, i.e. when roasting vegetables for your evening meal do some extra and have them cold at lunch time the next day with some added protein like tinned sardines or cold chicken or an omelette etc. Or do a similar thing with a stir fry, which can be surprisingly good cold.

Let us now look at some typical day’s food intake and how we can fit in all of the recommended portions. I have added up the portions as I have gone along.

Day 1 Breakfast; Porridge with fresh blueberries on top (1) Snack; banana and some cashew nuts (2) Lunch; Wholemeal sandwich with egg, tomato, lettuce and cucumber (3&4). An orange (5) Snack; fruit scone (6) Evening meal; Poached salmon fillet with steamed cauliflower, carrots and peas and a baked sweet potato. (10)

Day 2 Breakfast; Muesli with dried fruit (1) and a banana sliced (2) with almond milk. Snack; A pear (3) and some almonds. Lunch; vegetable soup (4&5) with rye bread and hummus. Snack; Oatcakes with cashew nut butter and carrot sticks (6) Evening meal; beef casserole with root vegetables (7&8&9) steamed spring cabbage or broccoli (10).

Day 3 Breakfast; Fruit smoothie (1&2&3) with ground almonds and almond milk. Snack; apple (4) and natural yogurt. Lunch; Large imaginative salad (5&6&7), omelette and slice of wholemeal bread. Snack; satsuma (8) Evening meal; baked beans on toast with grilled mushrooms (9) and tomatoes (10).

Please note that these daily meals are by no means a diet plan or to be followed - they are simply ideas showing how 8-10 portions could be eaten in one day.

I read an interesting article published a few weeks ago by a woman called Sara Malm. She explained how she had embraced the new guidelines despite having a very small budget. She found that the increase of the fruits and vegetables cost her approximately £1 a day. An example of her eating for a day: Breakfast; Oats with an apple and sultanas, Snack; a carrot, Lunch; salmon left over from evening meal, broccoli and salad, Snack; banana, Evening meal; spaghetti with chunky tomato and courgette sauce, grated cheese.

I would be interested to know if any of you have some ideas which you would like to share. Next month I will focus the blog on simple, tasty, quick and easy recipes using vegetables.

Rather than repeat much of the above, I'd just suggest some (occasional) alternatives:

Breakfast: Melon, Kippers with wholemeal bread & butter.

a) Oily fish on wholemeal toast (e.g. brisling, mackeral, pilchards, sardines, etc) with grilled tomatoes.
b) Grilled or cold lean meat (e.g. chicken, turkey etc) with a light salad.

Evening Meal:
c) Stir fry with beansprouts, peppers, sugar snap peas and mix of other vegetables.
d) Liver, onions, tomatoes, green vegetables, new/mashed potatoes.
e) Home made curry with chick peas, lentils, mix of other vegetables.
Snacks: Handful of mixed nuts and dried fruits.

Add pulses (e.g. beans, lentils, peas) to stews and casseroles.
Use plenty of different herbs & spices to vary flavours.
Sprinkle a few mixed seeds on salads (e.g. flax, linseed, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, etc).

Blog originally written by Caroline April 2017 - links updated April 2020

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