There are so many health benefits associated with increasing your fruit and vegetable intake that they should really be considered medicine!
Fruit and vegetables give us life and should be the main focus of a healthy diet. Vegetables, in particular, provide the broadest range of nutrients in any food group. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates as well as containing high levels of cancer-protective phytochemicals.
Plant food sources are essential for optimum cellular function in all tissues in the body and consist of thousands of different families of nutrients providing vital antioxidant activity, and immune support as well as being an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fibre to keep your bowels moving.
Packing your diet full of fruit and vegetables can help to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease, lower the risk of gastrointestinal problems, aid digestion, prevent certain types of cancer and have a positive effect on blood sugar levels helping to control appetite and cravings.
The average person in the UK eats about 3 portions of fruit and veg a day which falls a bit short of the 5-a-day current NHS recommendations. Experts are now suggesting it should be increased to 10 portions a day in line with countries like Canada. But how are you going to squeeze them all in?
First of all it has to be said that it’s going to be a whole lot easier to top up your fruit and veggie intake if you’re either adventurous or a dab hand in the kitchen! Otherwise, consider this a challenge and don’t be put off by a few disasters.
- Make a fruit ‘n’ veg smoothie – don’t think these are just for health freaks and hippies. Smoothies are a great way to start the day, packed full of nutrients and very filling, especially with added protein. No need for an all-singing-all-dancing smoothie maker, just chuck a bunch of chopped fruit into a bowl with any kind of milk or yogurt of your choice and use a hand held blender to mix it all up. Need a little help getting started? Try out our great selection of Superfood Smoothies. https://www.amchara.com/raw-food-and-juicing/some-great-smoothies-featuring-superfoods/
- Try something different – if you can’t summon up enthusiasm for the usual carrots, peas and cabbage…have a really good look in the fresh produce aisle next time you’re at the supermarket and make a determined effort to choose something completely different. Have you tried Cavalo Nero, Kale, Fennel, Celeriac, aubergine or Jerusalem artichokes? So many amazing choices at your fingertips! Just give something a go.
- Roast a selection of vegetables – there’s nothing easier or more mouth-watering than chopped vegetables roasted in olive oil or coconut oil with plenty of seasoning. Roasted sweet potato wedges are a yummy and nutrient packed alternative to oven chips.
- Don’t limit your mash to potatoes, or your rice to basmati – pureed cauliflower, sweet potato or celeriac can bump up your five a day and are delicious alternatives to mash. Grated cauliflower also makes a really tasty alternative to rice. Add some sautéed garlic, sliced mushrooms, peppers and peas and you have a veg packed savoury rice.
- Mix and match – sweet potato combined with standard potatoes is an awesome topping for shepherd’s pie or fish pie. Mashed swede and carrot is equally good with a sprinkling of grated parmesan for a savoury crust.
- Fill ¾ of your plate with vegetables – don’t stop at a solitary serving of vegetables add 3 or 4 – put them in sauces and top them with cheese or breadcrumbs for a bit of variety.
- Get creative with your staples – Who says you can’t add baked beans, chopped carrots, sweet corn, peppers, peas and mushrooms to your Bolognese sauce! The same goes with cottage pie, casseroles, stir-fries or savoury mince, add loads of extra veg. As well as adding vital nutrients it also bulks it up making your meal go further. * if you have fussy kids puree some of the veggies like carrots to make them less obvious.
- Experiment with veggie alternatives – try vegetarian chilli topped with a dollop of Greek tzatziki and teamed up with cauliflower rice – just as nice and spicy as the meat version. Stir cooked veggies and pesto sauce into pasta and add some crusty garlic bread instead of tuna pasta bake. Give veggie lasagne a go, there are some great variations you can make.
- Change your snacks – mid-morning and mid-afternoon – break the habit of crisps and biscuits and munch on some fruit and nuts. Crudités with hummus makes a nice change too or try mashed avocados on whole grain crackers. If you can’t resist cheese try sliced pear with salty feta, a great combination.
- Get fruity with your puddings – swop brownies, cakes, ice-cream and rich puddings for fruit based desserts. Try chopped fruit and natural yogurt, or pile mixed berries onto meringue cases with a spoon of crème fraiche. Don’t forget good old-fashioned bananas and custard or a fruit crumble – timeless and yummy. *To avoid sugar – use a healthy alternative such as xylitol which is ok in moderation and has no effect on your blood sugar levels.
- Pimp up your breakfast – Add chopped fruit to your porridge or cereal bowl, or mash a banana into your nut butter on toast. Mix apple or pear puree into your morning muesli with a dash of apple juice instead of milk.
- Make your own coleslaw – there are so many delicious variations on coleslaw and kids love it. You can team it up with jacket potatoes, put it in your sandwiches or have it on the side with a home-made veggie burger and sweet potato chips.
- Grow your own – there’s nothing more likely to encourage you to eat more vegetables or fruit than if you’ve watered them lovingly and watched them grow. No garden? Grow something in a pot on the windowsill, but be careful it’s addictive!
Please note: Nutritional advice given is appropriate to the general public and may not suit individual dietary restrictions. Where possible Amchara recommends a healthy approach to eating which excludes dairy, sugar and gluten containing produce, but this may not suit all people. Foods free from dairy, gluten and sugar are available in local health food stores and some supermarkets, giving you the option to adjust menus and still enjoy your favourite foods. It is important to maintain balance and variety in any diet and above all enjoy guilt free eating that promotes optimal well-being.