While most people know they should be eating their five portions of fruit and veg a day, every day, it’s easy to forget that there’s more than one way to gobble the good stuff.
Don’t tell kids ‘no dessert until you’ve eaten all your veg’ – that’ll just make vegetables the enemy!
Making sure you and your family are getting the right amount is important for a number of reasons. After all, eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and veg a day can lower the risk of health problems like heart disease, stroke and some cancers, and can help you maintain a healthy weight (approved advice from NHS.uk).
But it needn’t be a chore – in fact, it can be a lot of (delicious) fun! Here’s how nutrionalist Fiona Hunter recommends squeezing those colourful foods into your diet.
"Can I feed my family 5-a-day on a budget?"
"Absolutely! Fresh, frozen and canned all count towards your 5-a-day but do try to choose tinned veg without added sugar or salt – and tinned fruit in juice rather than syrup. There’s no need to defrost veggies before adding
to your cooking, you can simply stir straight from the freezer into curries, rice, casseroles and soups.
Remember, you don’t have to eat your body weight in broccoli for it to count, either – just a few tablespoons of veg with a meal adds up. Great-value, handy canned veg is also good – and can have higher levels of key nutrients. ‘The antioxidant lycopene is more readily available from canned tomatoes than from fresh (approved nutrionalist advice from health.havard.edu).
Canned beans and pulses – such as lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans – contribute to your daily quota, but again, choose reduced-salt and sugar varieties. Reduced-sugar baked beans and spaghetti hoops contribute, too.
If you’re cooking with mince, use 25% less and then bulk it up with a can of lentils. Nobody will notice – and it’s a cheap and easy way to add more veg. Buying in season often means great value. In spring, that includes rhubarb, spinach, spring onions, watercress, and purple sprouting broccoli.
"My kids hate veg. Help!"
"Kids often prefer raw vegetables to cooked. So serve up crunchy raw veg with dips like houmous and guacamole – which contribute towards their 5-a-day, too. Try adding frozen peas or sweetcorn to macaroni cheese or grating courgette into spaghetti Bolognese and chilli. As children tend to like anything slightly sweeter, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots and red peppers usually go down well. Bitter flavours, like sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are less popular, but don’t stress too much about them – the kids’ tastes will change over time.
Finally, make eating veg fun! ‘Involve your children in choosing and preparing vegetables, and ask them whether they’ve eaten a 'rainbow' of fruit and veg today. It’s fun to play with colour, too – try grating beetroot into a risotto to make it bright pink!"
Four easy ways to your 5-a-day - from the freezer
Don't frown upon using frozen fruit and veg to ensure you get your five-a-day either. They taste just as good and their long shelf-life limits the amount of food waste. For taste and convenience, we love Frozen for Freshness Blueberries, Stir-Fry Veg Mix, Sweet Potato Chunks and Mango & Pineapple Smoothie Mix.
Mix and match our three days’ worth of family-friendly meal ideas. They’re hassle-free, and cheap!
Breakfast ideas x 3
1 mashed banana on wholemeal toast; 150ml glass of juice
Mushrooms (3 heaped tbsp) on toast; 150ml glass of juice
Lunch ideas x 3
Low-sugar spaghetti hoops or reduced salt and sugar baked beans (half a 400g can) on toast; 2 kiwi fruit
Dinner ideas x 3