One of the main ways to be more eco-friendly in your eating is to eat more fruit and vegetables, especially locally grown, packaging-free ones.
So how do you go about doing this? Especially if you don’t really like vegetables!?
Oh, and a quick note about the whole ‘5 a day’ thing. It’s a guideline MINIMUM that we should be eating. So it’s not, get to five and stop because you’ve had enough. More is always better!
In the UK, we are advised to get at least 5 a day. America’s are advised to eat 1½ to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables. These are right at the low end…
Other countries like Australia recommend 7 a day (2 fruit and 5 veg). The science says that having a 10 a day is more what we should be aiming for, and people who consume this much have significantly lower levels of disease and sickness. So why does our government say 5? Simply because they fear that 10 would seem unachievable and therefore people wouldn’t even try! That’s how little fruit and veg we eat in this country – it’s no wonder rates of diseases are climbing!
Note that the Australians split out into 2 fruit and 5 vegetables because they don’t want people to just eat 7 portions of fruit. Fruit is good for you in terms of vitamins and minerals, but many are still very high in sugar, so should be eaten in moderation and ideally spread throughout the day.
So if we should be trying to eat pretty much as much fruit and veg as we can, how do we do this?
Let’s start with some generic bits about how to fit more fruits and vegetables into your life before getting into how you can start to like and eat veg in the first place!Soups
A vegetable soup is a great way to pack in a load of veg. There are so many recipes out there that you’ll definitely find one that works for you. There’s always one you can do with seasonal veg, blending some beans in or adding in some form of yoghurt or coconut milk makes them more filling.
Yes, they seem like a lot of effort to prepare, especially if there’s only one of you, but they are great for batch prepping and freezing so just cook lots of it less often.
Many of the recipes out there don’t actually contain many veg at all. This really annoys me!! So I’m always looking at how I can add more vegetables into something.
In a light or thin sauce, adding extra veg can really change the dish up (which is either a good or bad thing depending on your attitude towards veg…). But if there’s a thick or flavoursome sauce, adding some extra veg won’t change it much, especially if you add the veg in tiny bits…
Veg are very interchangeable. You can easily swap most green leafy veg around (spinach, kale, winter greens), pick something that looks broadly similar rather than getting hung up on getting exactly the vegetable the recipe requires. That way you can shop seasonally and pick the packaging-free ones.Hide the vegetables
One of the better ways to get veg into someone who hates them, is to make it really small (as discussed above, this was one of my go to options when trying to make myself eat them).
Try grating vegetables in, or even blending them into a sauce.
Grated carrot actually sweetens a dish.
Grated courgette mushes down into pretty much nothing.Salads
These have a reputation for being boring, but there are so many things you can put in a salad! I love the warm ones like roasted squash, chilli chickpeas and spinach.
It’s quite amazing what happens to veg when they go through a spiraliser! Sweet potato and courgette come out looking like pasta! Either add to a spaghetti dish for some semi-hidden veg,or replace the pasta altogether!
If you don’t have a spiraliser, using your peeler to slice off thin slices can give a similar effect. Although they are more like linguine… These steam fry in a couple of minutes so are great for a quick dinner, or to add into a stir fry.Rethink breakfast
I’ve talked about oatmeal, but there are so many other breakfast options!
Mini breakfast omelettes with vegetables in (onion, tomato, courgette, spinach, mushrooms etc).
Grilled mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs and potatoes.
We have some pretty set ideas about breakfast (in the UK certainly), and eating veg for breakfast seems very weird, yet we readily accept tomatoes and mushrooms as breakfast foods in our ‘Full English’, and will have potatoes in the form of hash browns. Open your breakfast world up to other vegetables!
Talking of hash, a potato or parsnip hash is great for breakfast or brunch.Fruit for snacks
I still struggle with this one, but I’m a lot better than I used to be!
For some reason when I’m hungry, fruit never seems to come into my head. But when I do remember and eat an apple or orange instead of a biscuit, I always remember how much I love them – a good apple or orange really does taste better than most biscuits in my opinion. A rubbish apple or orange is pretty grim though… So experiment with different types to find one you like and prioritise fresh, quality fruit to make it taste better (it’s likely to be more nutritious too!).
If you can team a piece of fruit with some nuts or seeds, you’re sticking in a long term energy source that should keep you going for a few hours (unlike 20 minutes with a biscuit). Avoid the sugar rollercoaster!
Whilst this isn’t habit, and you still think of chocolate, cake or biscuits whenever you get peckish, hide these from view, and put the fruit in front of it. At least then you can consider the apple instead, rather than forgetting it’s even an option!
If you find yourself reaching for the cookie jar at 10.30, try and set yourself limits. Denying yourself something entirely often means that you end up wanting it more, but I’ve found that by limiting chocolate, biscuits and cake (high sugar foods) before lunch, I can put back the biscuit till later and have a piece of fruit in the morning. Part of this comes down to learning about the impact of foods on my blood sugar and why I’d want to keep my blood sugars stable.
My biggest reason for overlooking fruit for a snack is that I often get a sweet tooth after lunch.
My colleagues, friends and family always laugh at me because I try baking with veg in it. They only ever say they don’t like it AFTER they find out what’s in it though. Yet no-one laughs at carrot cake! It’s all about mindset.
Beetroot cake is deliciously earthy and has such a rich colour, banana breads don’t even need to be sweetened to be delicious – the ripe banana does that for you. Apple cakes are really nice, and I even love a sweet potato brownie, black bean cookies and courgette cakes. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
Level 1 is just to use dates and sultanas/raisins instead of refined sugars. These still pack a massive sugar punch, but they do at least come as little vitamin and mineral parcels wrapped in fibre.
This Carrot and Courgette Cake recipe makes a filling and tasty loaf that’s great warm with a cup of tea.Fruit with breakfast
As a population we generally reach for the cereals and grains. Yes, it’s very quick and convenient, but the sugar content is pretty high, even in ‘healthy’ cereals and we tend to have them with a whole heap of milk and very little fruit.
Porridge or oatmeal again has a reputation for being bland and boring. I think this is totally undeserved! In mine this morning for example, I had some leftover berry compote from our pancakes the day before, stewed apple, half a banana, crushed seeds and nuts, and sultanas. Delicious – and a fun purple colour! Other days I put in some cinnamon with apple or banana. In the summer I fill it with strawberries and other berries. Sweeten it with a dash of honey if you must in the beginning whilst your taste buds adapt from sweetened cereals.
A bowl only takes 2 mins to cook, so put it in whilst you’re getting everything else out, or sorting other things out in your morning, chuck in some fillings and voila.
If you have to stick with a cereal, try muesli with fruit and yoghurt (a non sweetened kind preferably in a cardboard box). My son’s not a fan of porridge, but he loves muesli.
Try to get two portions of fruit (or veg – see further down) with your breakfast so you’re off to a winning start.
When you get into the habit of having vegetables or fruit with every meal, you’ll far exceed 5 a day. Have a couple in breakfast, snack on fruit, include a couple in lunch and then 3 with dinner. This will mean that over half of your plate should be vegetables at most meals!Try cauliflower rice
Cooked in a bit of vegetable stock, this has a lovely flavour and looks a lot like couscous (less like rice). It’s really easy to make and you can eat piles of it without guilt. Use it as a side to a flavoursome sauce and it’ll absorb the flavour.
Before you get too judgemental about cauliflower. Does anyone actually like rice on its own? Not really, that’s why we have it with things with sauce!Add a side salad
There are many meals, especially pastas and pizza that go really well with a side salad. Pick the bits you like best at the start (but do keep trying new ones). Lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber are the standards, but do try avocado too and spinach and the many other types of lettuce leaf. They have different flavours and textures so find one you like best.
We also add cherry tomatoes, spinach/lettuce and cucumber on the side of any sandwich we serve up to the kids so that they can get an extra portion of veg in.
The article continues with more tips on how to get more veg, and busting some other barriers to eating veg (fussy kids, fussy partners etc). Click here to get more veg in you! https://www.eatthinkexplore.com/how-eat-fruits-vegetables/
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