Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Easy tips for eating more fruit and vegetables

We all know that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is vital for our health and well-being.

It just isn't always that easy to do.

So here are some ideas and tips to help you reach your 5-a-day and maybe even in time your 10-a-day - please CLICK to tweet.

The vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients contained in fruit and vegetables are essential for all bodily functions, such as digestion, detoxification, immunity, mood regulation and our hormone system. The more fruit and vegetables we eat, the better we look and feel.

Government dietary guidelines in the UK and the USA suggest eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

Cancer experts say that consuming 8 to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day is even better for protecting our health.

The last National Diet and Nutrition Survey in the UK revealed that the majority of the population is not even managing to eat the minimum guideline of 5 portions per day - only 13 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women met this goal.

Average intake of fruit and vegetables was 2.7 portions for men and 2.9 portions for women. Of the men surveyed, 21 per cent ate no fruit in the survey week and 2 per cent ate no vegetables.

Women did a little better, with 15 per cent eating no fruit and 2 per cent eating no vegetables. One per cent reported eating no fruit or vegetables in the survey week.

Mean daily consumption was lowest in the youngest group (19–24 years) at 1.3 and 1.8 portions for men and women respectively, and was highest in the oldest group (50–64 years) at 3.6 and 3.8 portions.

Here are some tips for increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet

1.            Buy many kinds of fruits and vegetables when you shop so you have plenty of choices
2.            Stock up on frozen vegetables for easy cooking, so that you always have a vegetable dish with every dinner
3.            Use the fruits and vegetables that go bad easily (peaches, asparagus) first. Save hardier varieties (apple, squash) or frozen goods for later in the week
4.            Keep fruits and vegetables where you can see them. The more often you see them, the more likely you are to eat them.
5.            Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables on the top shelf of the refrigerator
6.            Cut up a selection of fruit and leave the plate on the table when the children come home from school - you will find that it all miraculously disappears
7.            Choose fresh fruit for dessert or make a simple fruit compote (e.g., apple and apricot). Cooking apples can be steamed in a matter of minutes and served with a simple sauce, e.g., peanut butter and rice malt syrup, or dried pears, cinnamon and tahini.
8.            Keep a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter table, or desk at work.
9.            Pack a piece of fruit or some cut-up vegetables in your briefcase or backpack; carry moist towelettes for easy cleanup.
10.       Add fruits and vegetables to lunch by having them in a soup or salad, or cut up raw.
11.       Soups are an excellent way to combine a wide range of different vegetables. Simple combinations allow you to create variety throughout the week.
12.       Experiment with fruit smoothies. Use a simple hand blender to blend a selection of fruits, e.g., blueberries, strawberries, banana with rice milk and some ground seeds.
13.       Experiment with home-made vegetable juices prepared using a juicing machine.
14.       Make a carrot and apple base and add vegetables such as cabbage, cucumber, celery, fennel, beetroot, radish and red cabbage. Herbs such as mint and parsley can also be added. Numerous combinations can be created, such as apple, cucumber and mint; carrot and beetroot; apple, red cabbage and beetroot; carrot, apple and celery; apple, celery and lime.
15.       Experiment with cooking vegetables in different ways: stir-frying, steaming and sautéing are quick and easy methods. Vegetables can also be baked – although the cooking time is longer, the preparation is quick.
16.       Add extra varieties of vegetables when you prepare soups, sauces and casseroles (for example, add grated carrots and courgettes to spaghetti sauce)
17.       Take advantage of salad bars, which offer ready-to-eat raw vegetables and fruits and prepared salads made with fruits and vegetables
18.       Use vegetable based juices such as carrot juice when preparing sauces.

Here is a handy guide I wrote suggesting over 50 ways to add portions of fruit and vegetables to your dishes.

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