10 A Day: Putting it into practice

A recent study by Imperial College London has calculated that eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (double the amount of the current 5 a day recommendation) could prevent 7.8 million premature deaths per year.

This seems to me like healthy eating common sense. Eating more fruit and vegetables delivers an even greater dose of disease fighting nutrients. So, it’s all good in theory, however in practice actually reaching that magic 10 portions is quite a challenge.

So the following tips and ideas may help you to pack a few more portions into your day…

Breakfast

  • Porridge, museli, granola or natural yoghurt with a portion of berries or a grated apple.
  • Smoothie: Berries, avocado and spinach are always a good combination. Or try this green smoothie recipe – ½ avocado + juice of half a lime + handful spinach + 1 apple or pear + 1 kiwi or half a papaya + 2 tbsp mint leaves + 1 tbsp flax or chia seeds + 1 tbsp coconut oil + enough water or coconut water to get the desired consistency.
  • Omelette with courgette, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Serve with a handful of green salad or spinach.

Lunch

  • Large salad – fill your plate with dark green leaves, grate carrots and courgettes, add diced avocado, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, beetroot, finely sliced red cabbage, red onion and peppers.
  • Sandwich or wrap packed full of extra salad – literally put in as much as you can fit!
  • Shop bought or homemade vegetable soup – fry chopped onion until soft, add a couple of cloves of garlic and fry for another minute. Then tip in some stock and add whatever vegetables you fancy – butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, greens, peas, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli etc. Boil until tender then either eat as a chunky soup or blitz to a smoother consistency. Add chopped cooked chicken for extra protein. Make a large batch of soup in advance and freeze portions.
  • Or, whatever you usually have for lunch, simply add a few vegetable sticks or a large handful of salad onto the side.

Dinner

  • Large stir fry with piles of mixed veg – onion, garlic, ginger, peppers, mushrooms, carrot, courgette, cabbage, beansprouts. Add chopped mango right at the end and stir through soya or Tamari sauce. You can even buy a ready chopped bag of stir fry veg if you don’t have time for the preparation.
  • Add finely chopped veg such as peppers, mushrooms, carrots, celery and onions to old favourites such as bolognaise sauce, chilli con carne or curry. I always stir in a few handfuls of spinach or kale towards the end of cooking a curry, whether the recipe calls for it or not.
  • Instead of white potatoes or chips, substitute with homemade sweet potato wedges or mixed roast veg. You can even buy frozen veg for roasting if you don’t have time to chop!
  • As with lunch, simply add a large handful of salad, steamed veg or crudités onto the side of whatever else you are having.
  • In place of spaghetti, try courgetti. In place of rice, try cauliflower rice!

Snacks

  • Fruit and nuts.
  • Vegetable sticks dipped in houmous or guacamole.
  • Half an avocado – add a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt and spoon it out of the skin.

Tips

  • Eat more vegetables than fruit as part of your 10 a day. Fruit contains a lot of sugar – it is naturally occurring, so not all bad, however too much sugar of any kind can have a detrimental effect on energy levels and healthy weight maintenance.
  • One easy way to ensure that you add more vegetables or salad to your plate is to aim to eat less starchy carbohydrates. Limit yourself to 1-2 servings per day of starches such as bread, pasta, rice, cereal grains and white potatoes. You will then literally have to add more colour to your plate to fill the gap!
  • Don’t forget about fresh herbs – these can contain whopping amounts of essential nutrients. For example, there is 3 times as much vitamin C in parsley as in oranges! So add a large handful of herbs to a meal. Delicate herbs such as parsley, coriander, basil and mint are good additions at the end of cooking or sprinkled on top of a meal, whereas more robust herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage work well when added during cooking or roasting.