Scientists have recently upped the ante on us. It's a good thing. For years now the public health nutrition message in Australia has been to go for 2&5 - two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each and every day. Do this and you lower your risk of developing heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, stroke and premature death. Now a major study has revealed that if you aim for 10 serves a day (around 800g) you will slash your chances of these diseases even further. It was estimated that if everyone were to follow this dietary advise we would prevent nearly 8 million premature deaths! There's a big problem though. The most recent national health survey (conducted in the 2014-2015 period) revealed that only 7% of Australian's are meeting the current guidelines of consuming five serves of vegetables a day...and now we are expected to have even more?! It is achievable, but for anyone that may need a little help reaching this new target please have a read through the following suggestions. Even if you don't make your 10 serves a day straight off the bat, incorporating some of these strategies should up your intake of vegetables and fruit by a couple of serves a day - and that's one big step in the right direction. Good luck and happy eating!
1. THE BACKUP PLAN
My freezer always has some packets of frozen fruits and vegetables ready to go if I need them, and often times the nutritional value of frozen foods can be just as good as fresh produce - just don't boil the guts out of them! Frozen fruit and veg also saves you time and energy (no chopping, no peeling, no mess) if you get home late, or are exhausted from a big day. Chuck some mixed vegetables into a stir fry, soup or stew and sprinkle some frozen berries on your breakfast cereal.
2. SNACK STATION
Keep a container of cut up vegetables in the fridge right at eye level so its the first thing you see. Carrot sticks, green beans, strips of capsicum, cherry tomatoes, celery and cucumber sticks all have lovely flavours and a nice crunch. Pair your veggie sticks with a healthy dip like hommous, salsa or natural peanut butter and you have yourself the perfect snack.
3. MEATLESS MONDAY
Be a bit adventurous with your meal plans and forgo meat for a whole day every week, and don't be a cop out and just live off egg and cheese sandwiches! Try and ditch all animal products for one day a week, because this will force you to get creative with vegetables and fruit - try new foods and different flavours. You may find you start liking these kinds of meals so much you will be wanting to do more than just one day a week sans animal products....which would be AWESOME. You'd be doing your health a big favour and the environment a big favour too (animal agriculture is a major culprit when it comes to climate change).
4. SPLIT YOUR PLATE
Half of your dinner plate should be dedicated to vegetables and salads - there ain't no wriggle room here.
5. SMOOTH MOVES
Next time you have a smoothie make it a green one. Add a cup of baby spinach to your banana and berry smoothie. Now its green and its not just a smoothie - its Hulk juice. You are now incredible. Congratulations.
6. NATURE'S FAST FOOD
Pressed for time? Avoid the fast food joint for your 3pm pick me up (chips don't count as a serve guys). Snack on a piece of fruit - its nature's ultimate fast food and already comes in its own wrapping. Sweet!
7. ENTREE, ANDELE!
Start your meal off with a vegetable soup or salad. Not only will you be sneaking in an extra serve or two of veg, you might end up cutting your calories in the long run too. Some studies have shown that when people start their meals off with a low calorie soup or salad they can cut their overall energy intake by up to 20%.
8. LUNCH TIME LOVING
I see a lot of clients that don't eat any fruits or vegetables at lunch time and thats a big opportunity missed! Don't just have a ham and cheese sandwich - thats not going to do you any favours. Add some salad to your sandwich - leafy greens like spinach, rocket or beet leaves, some grated carrot, sliced tomato, beetroot, cucumber and capsicum and you've now got yourself one good looking meal packed with nutrients!
9. DECREASE THE MEAT
Not game enough to try Meatless Monday? At least decrease the amount of meat you are eating each day - next time you do a spaghetti Bolognese half the mince, and instead add in some brown lentils. Legumes are a great meat replacer - you will still get protein, iron and zinc but you'll also be getting a good dose of fibre. Your heart and digestive system will love you for it!
10. SWEET TREATS
It's 8pm and you want, no - you need dessert. Cool your jets. Before you go reaching for the ice cream or chocolate brownie do yourself a favour and google 'nicecream', 'chocomole', and 'chickpea muffins'. Here's a quick rundown; Nicecream is based on frozen banana (and other delicious ingredients if you so choose, such as berries and cocoa) blended into a healthy soft serve - its actually great. Chocomole is chocolate mousse based on avocado (true story), and chickpea muffins....well that one is pretty self explanatory, are based on chickpeas and other ingredients such as banana and peanut butter rather than flour. This is only scratching the surface of the world that is fruit and vegetable based desserts.... This is really inspiring me to post some recipes soon - so stay tuned!