Easy ways to get your five-a-day (and more)
Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is recommended by health professionals – it's the best way to ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs to stay fit and healthy. But with busy lifestyles, we know it can sometimes be hard to make sure you're getting enough goodness in your diet. Upping your fruit and veg intake can seem like an impossible task, particularly if you're prone to grabbing food on-the-go as you rush from one meeting to the next or from work to the gym. According to the Food Standards Agency, only 30% of adults in the UK get their five-a-day on a regular basis (1); we're here to change that!
We've got some good news for you – there are easy ways to sneak more fruit and vegetables into your diet, without even noticing! It's all about how you approach it. So here are some easy ways to include more fresh, canned and frozen fruit and veg in your diet; start today and prepare to enjoy a healthier, more energised 2015.
Beans, beans, good for your heart
Baked beans count as one of your five-a-day, and most of us are likely to have a tin lurking in our cupboards, even if it is time for your weekly food shop. Bear in mind that although they count as one portion, they don't contain as many nutrients as other fruits and vegetables, and you'll need to choose no-added-sugar versions for the most benefits. Serve them on toast or add them to a jacket potato for a quick, healthy lunch.
Have an eggy breakfast
Eggs are one of the most nutritious (and affordable) foods around, loaded with protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Scrambled eggs or an omelette are great choices for a healthy breakfast; add some tomatoes, mushrooms or chopped, cooked courgettes and you're well on your way to five-a-day!
Whip up a fresh fruit smoothie
We love fruit smoothies and protein shakes, and they're one of the best ways to get extra portions of fruit into kids. Remember, you don't always have to use fresh fruit; frozen fruits add a delicious frosty touch and can help create a thicker smoothie. One of the best things about smoothies is that you can add whatever fruits and vegetables you like, so don't be afraid to experiment to find your favourite flavour combinations!
Sneak vegetables into meals
You'll need to think outside the box a little for this one. Love mash? Why not try creamy cauliflower or sweet potato mash, or add carrots to potato mash for a healthier option? Adding chopped carrots or frozen peas to bolognese sauce instantly ups your veg intake, or try throwing in some kidney beans and red peppers to chilli con carne. Super-healthy stir fries can contain several portions of vegetables, and they're lightly cooked, to retain their nutrients. During the winter months, lentils, beans and pulses are great in stews and soups – use them in salads when it's warm – and count as one portion a day.
Don't forget canned and frozen
It's not just fresh fruit and vegetables that count – if you haven't done your weekly shop, canned and frozen are great options. Look for vegetables canned in water with no added sugar or salt. Add tinned kidney beans, chickpeas or sweetcorn to soups and sauces, tinned pineapple chunks to your pizza or frozen peas to a creamy tagliatelle dish – your imagination is the limit!
Make a milkshake
A creamy milkshake is a great treat and also the ideal way to get your kids eating more fruit and vegetables, without them even realising! If you're avoiding dairy, try almond or soya milk for the same results. Blend vitamin C-packed blueberries with cucumber, tomatoes and milk for a super-healthy shake that counts as two of your five-a-day.
Stick to soup
Whether you make your own soup from scratch, or enjoy fresh soup from brands such as New Covent Garden, a bowl of soup can easily contain two to three portions of vegetables and is perfect for a quick, healthy lunch or speedy dinner after your workout at the gym.
Berries are loaded with Vitamin C and natural fruit sugars. Choose dark-skinned fruits such as blackberries, which are lower in sugar and higher in fibre than an apple or a banana (2). Try adding a handful of blueberries or raspberries to porridge, serving banana pancakes with fresh raspberries and some Greek yogurt or topping your morning granola with berries. Frozen berries add colour and vitamins to a fruit smoothie.
Order a side-salad
Get in the habit of having a side-salad with your main meal, particularly when you're dining out. A small bowl counts as one of your five-a-day. For the ultimate healthy side-salad, try avocado, cherry tomatoes and cucumber with home-made vinaigrette. Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and half an avocado is one of your five-a-day!
As you can see, there are loads of easy ways to ensure you're getting your five-a-day – the key is to start by including at least one or two portions of fruit and vegetables at breakfast time, making it easier to meet your quota later in the day. Even on those days where breakfast is a rushed cereal bar on the commute to work, you can still make things up later by enjoying a salad at lunchtime and a healthy stir fry for dinner, or even a vegetable-packed pasta sauce.
The more nutrients you include in your diet from fresh, frozen or canned vegetables, the better you'll feel, both physically and mentally, and when you feel better, you'll find it easier to get up off the sofa and go for a run, to the gym or to that trampoline fitness class everyone's talking about!
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