Challenge: Easy Way to 5 a Day
Earlier this year the NHS reported that just one in four adults are eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. So this challenge, which comes from Ashley Lowe, Health Project Co-ordinator for Newcastle United Foundation, is for us to up our fruit and veg intake!
Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that help to keep you healthy, full of energy and reduce your risk of illness. Evidence shows there are huge health benefits to eating at least 5 a day including less risk of heart disease, stroke and even cancer.
Fruits and vegetables also contain fibre which helps to maintain a healthy digestive system and reduces your risk of bowel cancer whilst also helping you to feel full.
Fruit and vegetables are also low in fat and calories so will help you to maintain a healthy weight.
The recommendation of 5 a day is for 5 DIFFERENT fruits and vegetables. This means you can’t eat 5 oranges and count that as 5 portions that would only count as 1 portion. You should aim to eat a variety of colours (a rainbow diet) as this will ensure you are getting a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
1 portion is approx. 80g OR 1 handful OR 3 tablespoons. It is not convenient to constantly weigh out your food so a handful is often the best and easiest way to measure, if it comes to frozen or tinned products a tablespoon would be the easiest way!
A lot of people think it is impossible to achieve 5 a day, but with a bit of planning it is incredibly easy. Including one portion at each meal would take you to 3 portions, then a mid-morning and mid afternoon snack of fruit or veg will make it to your 5.
Here are my top tips on how to do this:
Easy Way to 5 a Day
1. Add berries to porridge or whole-wheat cereal.
2. Add a sliced banana to peanut butter on wholemeal toast
3. Omelettes are a great way to sneak in vegetables – try peppers, tomato, low fat cheese and spinach, add herbs and spices of your choice.
4. Greek yoghurt with fruit and a sprinkling of nuts or seeds is a great balanced breakfast.
5. Did you know beans count? Baked beans on wholemeal toast is cheap, quick, filling and highly nutritious!
Mid-morning or afternoon snacks:
1. Snack on fruit of your choice
2. Add fruit to plain Greek yoghurt – this is much healthier for you than flavoured yoghurts.
3. Chop up peppers, carrots and cucumber crudités to dip into low fat dip of choice.
4. Make your own ‘trail mix’ – mixed nuts with raisins – the raisins will contribute towards your 5 a day
5. Make a smoothie – handful of berries with ½ banana, yoghurt and spinach will count as 2 of your 5 a day (you can’t taste the spinach I promise)
Lunch & evening meals:
1. Vegetable based soups, even better if homemade
2. Salads are an easy way to get your portions up, you need a small cereal bowl size of salad to count as 1 portion.
3. Cook from scratch – if you make chilli’s, curries and pasta sauces from scratch you are more likely to include veg. All three of those dishes would include chopped tomatoes for a sauce and at least onions and peppers as a base. You can book in big batches and freeze for a later date so you have your own health ready meals.
4. Swap some traditional carbs for vegetables – think cauliflower rice, courgette spaghetti, carrot and swede mash.
5. Add lentils and beans to meals to bulk them out and increase your portions – think spaghetti bolognese, casseroles, chilli’s all of these can include beans and lentils which keeps your cost of the meal down as well.
I'm challenging Newcastle Can to up your fruit and vegetable intake and see if with the above hints and tips you can hit 5-a-day!
Ashley Lowe is a Personal Trainer and the Health Project Co-ordinator for Newcastle United Foundation