You may have been advised by health professionals or friends and family to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. But why? What is the purpose of eating 5 a day? Can it help you lose weight? Why not skip it and just have vitamin pills?
Fruit and vegetables are essential for a healthy lifestyle. They are full of nutrients and vitamins that our bodies need and they also help to regulate hunger and weight loss. They are taste great!
Many vegetables are high in essential nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin C and potassium. Fruit and vegetables are also a great source of fiber which you cannot get from pills. Fruit and vegetables are really good for health as they also contain antioxidants.
As fruit and vegetables are low fat, low calorie foods, they help with weight loss. Eating more fruit and veg and less sugar and meat helps to reduce heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
How To Eat More Fruit and Vegetables
Vegetables are generally best when lightly cooked. Chinese style stir fry is an excellent way to prepare vegetables as it is fast and locks in the flavor and goodness while also allowing you to add more flavors from spices and sauces.
Smoothies are a very popular way to eat fruits, with one smoothie containing up to 3 portions of fruit.
What is a Portion?
To be sure that you are getting enough you need to know what a portion is. As far as the “5 a day” plan works a portion is about 3 ounces (80 grams). Juice only counts as 1 portion, even if you drink a whole bottle.
Potatoes are not counted in the 5 a day, so chips, crisps, jackets, roasted, mashed and fried potatoes are all out.
Other examples of a portion are:
- 1/2 a can of tinned peaches
- 1 medium sized banana
- 3 heaped tablespoons of peas
- 1 glass of fresh orange juice
- 7 strawberries
- 3 heaped tablespoons of chopped frozen mixed vegetables
- 3 heaped tablespoons of kidney beans (or any other beans)
- a handful of grapes
- 2 clementines
- 2 medium plums
- a large pear
- 7 cherry tomatoes
- 3 heaped tablespoons sweetcorn
- a handful of vegetable sticks (celery, sweet pepper, carrot etc.)
What sort of Fruit and Veg?
Any form of fruit or vegetable is OK, so freshly picked, canned, frozen, chilled, juiced and dried all count. Also foods inside meals count, so if you have a chunky vegetable soup, this will count as a portion. Beware of high salt levels in convenience foods though.
To make fruit more interesting for children you can make fruit kebabs by chopping the fruit and putting it on skewers.
Really there are so many different fruits and vegetables that it should be easy to get 5 portions a day. Fruits can replace sugary snacks inbetween meals, so eat an apple instead of chocolate in the morning.
5 a Day Meal Ideas
- Breakfast: Fruit juice with the normal breakfast
- Mid-morning snack: Eat a couple of pieces of fruit, such as an apple and pear, or some grapes and a banana. Keep your fruit bowl well stocked and within easy reach.
- Lunch: Have more vegetables with your lunch, and replace potatoes with something more nutritious such as carrots and swede or a side salad. Vegetable chilli also counts towards 5 a day and provides a good energy boost.
- Mid-afternoon snack: More fruits or vegetables sticks with a healthy dip.
- Evening meal: Have another 2 helpings of vegetable with your dinner and make the vegetable portions bigger. Eat a serving of sweetcorn and carrots as well as broccoli and cabbage. Or have a large leafy salad with sliced carrots, peppers, herbs and tomatoes.
5 a Day Tips
The most important thing is to just get into the habit of eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. Also buy fresh produce to encourage you to eat it. Ideally you should be shopping for fruits every couple of days. If you only buy frozen or tinned food it is often “out of sight, out of mind” and you end up not eating it. Keep a large fruit bowl in the living room where everyone can see it all the time and people will eat more fruit.
It is important to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables from an early age. Make fruit and vegetables more fun for children by doing kebabs, sticking fruit on cocktail sticks and mounting on a half an upturned melon. Making faces and pictures on the child’s plate works well, so turning broccoli into trees or hair and carrots into the sun or eyes helps keep children interested in what they are eating. Children also respond well to a variety of colors, so add more colorful vegetables to the plate, not just all green and boiled!
Fruits and Vegetables for Weight Loss
Fruits and vegetables work well because they help you to feel fuller. Also they generally contain low levels of sugar and are therefore much healthier than refined and processed foods. As fruits and vegetables contain fiber, some of the energy is not digested so your take on board fewer calories. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is a great way to lose weight if combined with regular exercise. Many celebrities such as Kylie Minogue eat a healthy diet as a way to maintain a healthy weight. So you should too!