We all know we should be aiming to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but sometimes it feels easier said than done. Here are some easy ways to hit that target.
It’s hard to argue with the science behind the NHS’s recommendation that we eat 5 a day as a diet high in fruit and veg helps to reduce our risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer, and their high fibre content helps to keep our gut healthy.
If eating fruit and veg doesn’t come naturally to you, you’re not alone. A study by the British Dietetic Association in 2019 found that only 27% of adults aged 19-65 actually reach the target of 5 a day, falling to just 8% of children aged 11-18.
Don’t stress if it feels hard, just try your best. As well as being good for us, fruit and veg are also extremely versatile, so there are many ways of adding them to your diet.
1. Boost the veg content of every meal
When you’re meal planning or about to cook, ask yourself how you can increase the veg content. Things like spinach, carrot and courgette are easy to add to sauces if you cut them into very small pieces or blitz them in a food processor, and you’ll barely notice they’re there – perfect for fussy little eaters too.
2. Make the most of beans and legumes
Although when we say 5 a day we’re mainly focused on fruit and vegetables, there are some more surprising ways to reach your target. Beans and lentils count, meaning you can include one portion of baked beans (80g, or 3 tablespoons) as one of your 5 a day. They’re included because they’re high in fibre, but you can’t just load up on baked beans and call it a day, as they only count as one portion regardless of the amount you eat. Lok for lower salt and sugar beans too where you can.
3. Snack attack
If you’re partial to a snack or two to get you through the day, reach for fruit first. We’ve all got our favourite low-calorie snacks, and there’s no reason to give those up entirely, but try adding fruit too for a satisfying snack fix. Bananas, apples and satsumas make for perfectly portable snacks. Dried fruit also counts towards your 5 a day, but it tends to be very high in calories, so be mindful of your portions if you’re going for things like sultanas or dried apricots.
4. Try something new
If you’re drawn to the same fruit and veg every time you go shopping, make the most of the wide variety of produce stocked in supermarkets. Try something new even if you’re unsure if you’ll like it – you never know until you try. This is a great way to introduce kids to new healthy flavours, and you could even make it a game. Unsure how to prepare something new? The internet is a treasure trove, so don’t be shy!
5. Go frozen
Something that puts a lot of people off fresh fruit and veg is how quickly you need to eat it all. We’ve all had sad, wilting bags of lettuce at the back of the fridge or had to quickly Google how to make banana bread with our black bananas.
If this is what stops you from eating more fruit and veg, buy frozen instead. It’s a myth that frozen fruit and veg aren’t as good for us as their fresh equivalents. If anything, they’re even more nutritious as they’re typically frozen right after being picked, preserving their nutrients. You’ll find a wide variety stocked at most supermarkets, and most can be cooked in the microwave in just a few minutes, or added to dishes as-is to cook with the rest of the ingredients.