Sunday, August 7, 2016
Despite the fact that the ‘five-a-day’ campaign has been around in Britain in various guises since 1993, and most of us know that eating fruit and vegetables is good for us, the consumption of fresh produce is on the decline. Many Brits are still not eating enough fruit and vegetables and are instead opting for convenient and sometimes unhealthy snack alternatives.
So how can you make sure you are eating healthily and getting your 5-a-day? There are lots of ways you can make small changes to your diet, which will make fruit and vegetables a natural part of your everyday life.
First of all, it’s important to know what and how much counts towards your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that everyone should eat at least 400g of fruit and vegetables per day (80g individual portions) to lower the risks of serious health issues like heart disease and cancer. Furthermore, recent research in Canada has indicated that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables during pregnancy not only helps with healthy foetal development but can also make babies smarter.
The reason health authorities recommend 5 different types of fresh produce each day is so that you get a good variation of minerals and vitamins, as each type of fruit and vegetables will contain different minerals and vitamins that your body needs.
It’s also a good idea to know which fruit and vegetables count. It isn’t just limited to fresh produce either: dried, tinned and frozen fruit and vegetables also count, as do beans and pulses. However, potatoes are excluded from this, even though they do contain high levels of B vitamins potassium and fibre.
There are no strict rules on which types of fruit and vegetables you can eat and at which point in the day you should eat them, so a good place to start is by incorporating them into your breakfast. You can easily add a fruity sensation to your breakfast by adding a handful of chopped strawberries, blueberries or banana onto your cereal or even have mashed banana on toast if you don’t like eating them whole. If you start eating fruit first thing in the morning, it will not only help to improve your metabolism and give you more energy; it will also make you more committed to eating fruit and vegetables later.
Another great way to add a portion to your daily routine is to swap those unhealthy snacks for a fruit or vegetable alternative. Eating a portion of chopped raw carrots, peppers or cucumber can be a very healthy alternative to crisps. While having an apple, banana, orange or any other piece of fruit instead of chocolate or biscuits will satisfy your sweet craving without the sugar crash and calories.
You can also get one portion of your five a day intake through drinks, such as fruit juice and smoothies. However, it’s important to limit your intake to 150ml of fruit juice or smoothies per day and preferably drink them at mealtimes as the natural sugars can damage teeth.
It’s also important to remember when trying to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables that you don’t have to just eat them individually. A great way to get several portions of fruit or vegetables in one go is by combining ingredients into a dish like pasta sauces, casseroles, soups or even a fruit puree that can be eaten on its own, mixed with yoghurt or put in a tasty pie.
Another thing you can do is make healthy substitutes with vegetables, which we already touched on with snacks. But here, we’re looking at replacing certain high carbohydrate foods like potatoes or bread with more nutritional vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips and butternut squash. You’ll still get plenty of fibre and energy, but also the benefit of fewer carbs and more vitamins and minerals.
While many people instinctively go for fruit, vegetables shouldn’t be overlooked as they have a lower sugar content, lower GI and a wider range of minerals and vitamins too.
By making a few small changes to your diet and being more aware of which types of foods contain vegetables and fruit you can easily get your 5-a-day to ensure you’re eating a well-balanced and healthy diet.