Does your five-a-day stack up?
Do you get your recommended five-a-day? Do you know what the term five-a-day means?!
The UK Department of Health recommends that we all get at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day to get the right amount of nutrients and fibre to keep us healthy. Colloquially, it's referred to as five-a-day, and the campaign started back in 2003.
How many portions of fruit and vegetables do you eat in a day? Research indicates that just one in five Brits manage to reach the recommended levels, with many of us falling significantly behind.
If you don't know whether you're reaching your quota of fruit and vegetables, try keeping a food diary. Experiment for a week, by writing down every portion of fruit and vegetables you eat (including juices). You might be surprised at the results. If you expand your food diary to keeping a record of all the foods you eat during the week, it will help you review your overall diet and identify possible problem areas.
Getting five-a-day isn't as tricky as some people think. First, dispel the myth that only fresh counts. Tinned, frozen and dried foods are equally nutritious. Fruit and vegetables in soups, stews or pasta dishes all count towards your five a day, as do juices.
Try to include a range of different fruits and vegetables in your diet (don't just stick to two or three favourites!) and make sure you include a variety of colours and textures. This will ensure you benefit from the full range of vitamins and minerals nature provides. The upsides are huge, from reducing the risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease, cancer or stroke or more immediate benefits, such as better skin and feeling less tired.
Struggling to reach five-a-day? Why not try adding fruit to breakfast cereals, porridge or yoghurt? It could be in the form of berries, dried fruits, compote or fresh pieces. Love peanut butter or chocolate spread on toast? Why not add some sliced banana on top? At lunchtime, enjoy a pizza bursting with veggies: sprinkle with handfuls of pineapple, peppers, sweetcorn and chilli.
Salads are a great way to boost your vegetable intake. Of course, a basic salad contains tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and peppers, but if this bores you, why not try beansprouts, parsley, cucumber and pomegranate for a change?
Try swapping less healthy snacks for fruit and vegetables. Carrot or pepper sticks dipped in humus is a tasty, healthy way to stave off the munchies. Fruit makes a great alternative to chocolate options, and cooked fruits offer a completely different set of flavours. Juicing is an easy way to reach the five-a-day target: try tomatoes, cabbage and cucumber with a dash of Worcestershire sauce for a spicy winter warmer.
During the evening, use stews, casseroles, pasta dishes, curries, pies and stir fries to pack in your vegetables. Don't make a bolognaise with only meat, tomatoes and onions: add celery, mushrooms, garlic, herbs, peppers and carrots. The stock will be tastier and you'll be eating much more veg (it will go further too!).
Old fashioned deserts, such as apple pie, rhubarb crumble, peaches and cream or bananas and custard are all good ways of getting another portion of fruit. These are treats, so be mindful of how much fat and sugar you are eating at other times of the day when indulging in puddings.
Getting your five-a-day is easy – you just need to be a little inventive.