One of the most important things you can do for your health is to enjoy an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Studies are now suggesting we should be aiming as high as 10 portions* a day, and while this isn't always easy for some people, we can all work out our own personal targets to increase the amounts of fruits and vegetable we consume on a daily basis.
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help to prevent chronic life-threatening diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease, as well providing all important fibre for optimal digestion, improving general immunity and even boosting eye health. Eat a broad variety of types and colours to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs.
Follow the tips below for getting more plant goodness into your daily diet:
1. Have a breakfast smoothie
Have fun experimenting with different combinations of fruits and vegetables into a delicious smoothie. Frozen fruit and veg can work well in smoothies too.
2. Fill an omelette
Perfect for a simple lunch or a lazy weekend brunch, whisk up eggs and fill with veggies like onions, mushrooms, spinach and peppers – or anything else you have in the fridge.
3) Try cauliflower or broccoli rice
Cauli rice has a bit of a cult thing of late. You can buy it ready-made in several supermarkets, but it is also very easy to whizz up yourself in a food processor. Simply chop a whole cauliflower into florets and pulse until the cauliflower is a fine, rice-like consistency. Perfect as a rice replacement or as a veggie side dish. There are many different ways to cook it such as stir frying or roasting. Also try with broccoli.
4) Pasta sauces
Pasta dishes are the perfect place to hide vegetables. Experiment with spinach, tomatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, peas and broccoli and pretty much any other vegetable you can think of. This is great for vegetable-adverse kids too as they will barely notice if you grate carrot or zucchini into a sauce, or blend a vegetable sauce until its smooth and just looks like tomato sauce.
5) Don’t forget your herbs
These count as vegetables, too, and are easily incorporated into almost any dish, from soups and stews to scrambled eggs.
6) Experiment with a spiralizer
You can get courgetti or butternut squash noodles from most supermarkets, or make your own with a spiralizer. Blanch for a minute or two, then serve with a favourite pasta sauce such as pesto or lentil bolognese.
7) Super snacks
Good old veg makes for a speedy snack. Celery sticks, radishes, cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas don’t even need any chopping.
8) Squeeze in an extra portion where you can
Whatever you are making for dinner, think ‘how can I add another vegetable to this?’
9) Bring in berries
Berries of any kind are choc-full of inflammation-fighting antioxidants. Add them to granola, muesli or porridge along with a sprinkle of seeds for a nutrition boost.
10) Carry handbag snacks
Apples, pears, bananas and satsumas are perfect travelling companions, and teamed with a small handful of nuts, make the perfect satisfying snack.
11) Make fruity lollies
Make some healthy ice lollies and keep in the freezer. These always go down a treat with kids. Experiment with different combinations. My favourite is to blend some mango, pineapple and coconut milk, with a squeeze of lime, and freeze.
* What constitutes a portion?
A portion means 80g (3oz) of fruit or veg - the equivalent of a small banana, a pear or three heaped tablespoons of spinach or peas.