Personally, I don’t struggle to get enough fruit and veg – I love the stuff and as a former vegetarian who still only eats meat twice a week, most of my meals are based around it.
But I do know that it is something many people find difficult – especially when they have fussy kids to contend with. If you aren’t used to eating much of the green stuff, it can be hard to know where to start. Government and NHS advice in the UK is that you should be eating a minimum of five 80g portions of different fruit and veg each day, which seems a lot if you aren’t used to it.
So here are my top tips for getting more fruit and veg into your (or your family’s) diet if you’re confused about where it’ll fit in to your mealplans.
1. Where you’d normally serve one veg, serve two.
If you normally eat meat and two veg (one being potato, which doesn’t really count) for dinner every night, you might struggle to get your five a day in. The simplest solution is to get into the habit of doubling up. Instead of just carrots, serve carrots and broccoli. Make it a habit to serve double the amount of veg you’d normally for an easy way of getting more vitamins into your diet. Remember that you’re aiming for five DIFFERENT portions of fruit and veg so don’t just double up on the quantity – add in a different type.
2. ‘Hide’ veg in sauces and cakes.
A prime example of this is spag bol, which is just crying out to be crammed with veggie goodness. Carrots, courgettes, onions, mushrooms and more can all be grated or very finely chopped into sauces for a surprise veg hit. When applied to sauces containing mince, this technique also ‘stretches’ the mince, having the frugal and healthy effect of reducing your meat portion. This works for cakes as well – I’ve seen recipes for carrot, courgette and even beetroot & chocolate cake. This is an especially good way of getting veg into fussy kids.
3. Have a vegetarian meal once or twice a week.
This will work best if you don’t just replace the meat with cheese or a meat substitute. but actively look for recipes where veg, pulses and nuts are the star ingredients. Instead of meat or quorn chilli, make a vegetable-based chilli – beans, lentils and maybe some yoghurt and cheese on the top provide ample protein.
4. Have soup for lunch instead of sandwiches.
Mr Chilli rarely gets his five a day, while I pretty much always eat 5-6 portions or more. Part of the reason is he tends to have tuna or ham sandwiches for lunch while I have homemade soup, usually containing at least two servings of veg. There are so many great vegetable soup recipes out there (here’s one) that there’s sure to be some you like. Obviously you need access to a microwave or kitchen at lunch for this to work.
5. Set a target
I work well with rules as I don’t have much willpower (I used to restrict myself to only eating sweet treats at work after 2pm, for example). So one of my ‘rules’ is that dinner should have at least two portions of veg (see point one). Another is that I need to eat at least one bit of fruit each work day. If you work well with targets and like giving yourself gold stars, you could even make a chart where you get to tick off each day you’ve hit your goal.
6. Replace your snacks with fruit and veg
Self-explanatory, really. If you normally have a bag of crisps at your mid-morning break, take a banana (definitely the most filling fruit, and the cheapest too!). Or carrot sticks, or a smoothie (green or otherwise – I personally haven’t worked up the courage for the green kind yet), or a handful of raisins (yes these count) or whatever floats your boat. Obviously this is a less ‘sneaky’approach than grating up veg into sauces or adding some peas to your piles of carrots at dinnertime, so start slow with one snack a day. It all adds up. You can also replace desserts – fruit salad is much better for you than chocolate cake, obviously.
So what do you do to get more fruit and veg into your diet? Do you have any recipes that are just crammed with vegetable-y goodness?