By Laura Parr
It may just be me, but I seem to eat a lot more vegetables at Christmas. In particular, Christmas dinner seems to involve loads of them – Brussels sprouts, parsnips, leeks, carrots, broccoli all piled high on the table.
Sadly, for most people that doesn’t seem to be true for the rest of the year. Research by the World Cancer Research Fund in 2012 found that just one in five Britons are eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Five portions may sound a lot, but in reality it shouldn’t be that difficult to achieve, especially with the amount of fruit and veg we have to choose from and all the different exciting ways they can be prepared and enjoyed.
Fruit and veg are so important in the diet as they are low in fat, a great source of fibre, and they help fill you up! These types of foods can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy one, and it is also thought that a diet high in fruit and veg can lower the chances of heart disease, some cancers and other health problems. Different fruit and veg contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, so it’s important to eat a mixture of brightly coloured fruit and veg each day, because each colour indicates a different health benefit to the body.
One portion is the equivalent of 80g, which equates to one medium apple, pear or banana, two kiwi fruits, half a large courgette, half an avocado, three heaped tablespoons of tinned sweetcorn, or seven cherry tomatoes! Another way of looking at it is that roughly a handful of fruit or veg is a portion. At this time of year, during the cold winter months it’s easy to get your five portions of fruit and veg each day. Christmas dinner aside, you can fill up on soups, stews and casseroles that are packed with lovely wintery vegetables like carrots, parsnips, sweet potato and celeriac. Beans go really well in these types of dishes too and they go towards your five portions – but they only count as one serving of your five a day, no matter how many you eat. So whether it’s kidney, butter, cannellini, black-eyed or even the humble baked bean, they all count.
It shouldn’t be a chore to get your five a day, don’t forget that you can drink 1 of your 5 portions. Both Jamie and I are big fans of homemade smoothies, they are so easy to make and great for the kids as you can throw in the fruit (or veg!) that they prefer. For recipe ideas check out jamieoliver.com