Did you see in the news the other week that a new study has recommended that we all eat 10 portions of fruit and veg a day, up from the previous recommendation of 5? The study, by University College London, found that up to 7.8 million deaths worldwide could be prevented if people upped their portions to 10 each day. That’s a pretty staggering finding!10 portions Guardian article
It has long been known that we are at a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature death if we eat more fruits and vegetables, but in order to gain the maximum protection against disease, the study found that 10 portions daily is the optimum number.
A portion is defined as 80g, which could be, for example:
- An apple
- A pear
- ½ a grapefruit
- A banana
- 2 kiwi fruits or plums or satsumas
- 1 tomato
- 8 cauliflower florets
- 3 tablespoons of peas
- 2 broccoli spears
- 1 glass of orange juice
So 800g of fruit and vegetables a day. Every. Single. Day. That’s a lot!
I was chatting to a fellow health nut about the findings of the study, and she said, “well, how many portions do you eat, do you reckon?”. I came back with a rather cocky, “8 on a good day, more like 4 on a bad day”, but this was totally based on a gut feeling rather than anything else. I know that I eat healthily, and the fridge is always stocked full of veg and the fruit bowl overflowing with fruit, and we never throw food away, so it’s definitely being eaten. And as a fish eating vegetarian (pescetarian sounds a bit odd!), the majority of my meals are plant based, so if anyone should be eating close to 10 portions a day, it should be someone like me, right?
I mean, I’m always sharing recipes on my blog which are packed full of vegetables, and talk about eating whole foods rather than processed rubbish, but am I just talking the talk without actually walking the walk myself? Only one way to find out. Time to make a food diary.
- Just eat as I normally would in a week, in order to get an accurate score
- Chips don’t count. Actually, white potatoes in any form don’t count.
- The aim is 70 portions for the week – yikes
- That’s it really!
Breakfast – I’m a creature of habit with my breakfasts. My post-workout breakfast protein shake always contains ½ a banana (1/2 a portion), ½ small avocado (1 portion) and 2 handfuls of spinach (1 portion), in with my vegan protein powder and almond milk, so I know I’m at 2.5 per day, or 17.5 for the week before 7am strikes – woop!
Running total: 17.5 portions
Monday – Not a great day. Toddler group in the morning meant that morning snack was biscuits, then lunchtime in the park café with a friend and her 3 year-old twins meant scrambled egg on toast for lunch. Does ketchup count? In my defence, I needed to choose something that the baby could share with me, and a big crunchy salad wouldn’t have gone down very well. Plus 2 sleep deprived mums, a baby, 3 year old twins and a just turned 4 year old called for an easy shovel it down lunch! Dinner was better, but couldn’t really make up for the rest of the day’s poor showing, Harissa baked salmon fillet, served with baked sweet potato (1 portion), asparagus (1 portion) and broccoli (1 portion). Rounded out the day with peanut butter spread thickly on rice cakes. Mmmmmm!
Total for day: 5.5 portions
Running total: 20.5 portions
Tuesday – Morning snack was again of the distinctly non-vegetable sort – biscuits. But I was at my volunteering shift, and had forgotten to take some fruit with me, so needed to eat something, anything! Pulled it back at lunchtime with a big bowl of vegetable crudites and hummus. Peppers, carrots and cucumber (an easy 2 portions), then an apple with peanut butter on rice cakes mid afternoon (1 portion). Dinner was broccoli and leek soup, a vat of it (2 portions) with goats cheese crumbled in, toasted seeds on top and oatcakes, and supper was more peanut butter on rice cakes. Much better day on balance, even if I ate half a jar of peanut butter!
Total for day: 7.5 portions
Running total: 25.5 portions
Wednesday – I managed a morning without a biscuit – hooray! But still no fruit or veg, so not that great. I just had one of my regular mid morning snacks of a hard boiled egg, mashed with hummus and dolloped on rice cakes. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Brunch with my Mum at a favourite local café, https://www.sebastianskitchen.com/ was delicious, but very light on the fruit and vegetables, just a few slices of avocado (1 portion).
Dinner was one of my favourite meals from a recipe book focussing on gut health GPlan link– Lentil bake. I’m completely obsessed by this meal – turmeric lentils, and carrots, leeks and spinach. I usually eat a pile of it! (2 portions)
Total for day: 5.5 portions
Running total: 28.5 portions
Thursday – More positive start to the day, saw me sharing a satsuma and a pear with the baby mid morning at his baby sensory class (1/2 portion). Seems I can remember healthy snacks for him, just not for me! Lunch was an M&S pre-packed beetroot, goats cheese and lentil salad, which the package told me was 2 portions of vegetables (2 portions). It was really tasty, but tiny, so I ate some leftover broccoli soup mid afternoon (1 portion). Dinner was a feast of vegetables – butternut squash, sweet potato, leeks, parsnips, carrots and onions in a delicious, comforting ginger and thyme broth. To die for! (3 portions).
I also squeezed in some banana and coconut ‘nice cream’ – frozen bananas whizzed up in the food processor with the coconut. I pass it off to the kids as real ice cream, but for me it’s just a healthy sweet treat, plus an extra portion for my tally (1 portion). Best day so far!
Total for day: 9 portions
Running total: 36 portions
Friday – No fruit or veg mid morning, just peanut butter straight from the jar. I shared some salads at lunchtime with my other half – him working away means he always comes back laden with M&S goodies. Today’s yums were prawn and rice salad (1 portion) and nutty superfood salad (1 portion). I don’t usually eat pre-packaged salads, and again I was reminded why, because I was starving come mid afternoon. I got stuck into a pile of carrots and hummus (1 portion) and some nuts and raisins (1 portion) to tide me over until dinner time. Friday night is often curry night in our house and this evening it was one of my favourites – aubergine curry, with tomatoes and onions in there along with the aubergine (2 portions), served with quinoa and tofu.
Friday was finished off in a much needed, but definitely fruit and veg free manner. Plenty of red wine and ALL the snacks. Bombay mix and pistachios are not very photogenic, but were oh so tasty!
Total for day: 8.5 portions
Running total: 36 portions
Saturday – The weekends are often where it all goes a little bit wrong for me. Just cos life gets in the way of good intentions! An apple mid morning was a good start (1 portion), then had lunch out at http://www.ellascafesheffield.com/ with my middle son before a theatre date. Avocado, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms accompanied my perfectly poached eggs and griddled halloumi on ciabatta – super tasty! (2.5 portions).
Dinner was another homemade curry – potato and cauliflower (recipe here), with tomatoes and onions. A big plate full. Got to go big with a curry! (3 portions). Supper = wine, naturally!
Total for day: 9 portions
Running total: 45 portions
Sunday – Usually the day where I pig out a little, lay around and veg out, but today was a gloriously sunny day so a good walk and bike ride with the kids was on the cards. I pre loaded with egg and hummus on rice cakes before we set off, then had lunch in the park, sitting outside for the first time this year. Bring on summer! I managed to squeeze some veg in, in the form of a delicious courgette and basil soup (1 portion) with a LARGE portion of chips on the side, which totally don’t count. The kids had a party in the afternoon, and whilst I tucked into the biscuits with gusto, I also had lots of veg and hummus, strawberries and grapes (a good 3 portions). Love a kids party with a mahoosive buffet! Dinner was curry leftovers from Saturday (3 portions).
Total for day: 9.5 portions
Running total: 54.5 portions out of 70 portions, so 15.5 portions short across the week!
What I’ve learned from the above:
1) I eat a LOT of peanut butter. Peanut butter is life after all 😍
2) Ditto bananas and avocado
3) Ditto biscuits – toddler groups are bad for my health, in more ways than one, as I always suspected!
4) It is really, really hard to eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables in a day. I almost managed it a couple of times, but other days in the week were woefully short. To achieve 70 portions in a week requires a lot of planning and preparation, and most likely no eating out at all. Not a great way to spend your time!
5) I eat the most fruit and vegetables on days where I menu plan and prepare my snacks in advance of dashing out of the door. It may be boring, but it works!
6) Getting my 2.5 portions in each morning in the form of my shake is a bit of a lifesaver
7) Having vegetables prepared in the fridge for when I get a mid afternoon snack attack is a great way to squeeze more vegetables in
8) Soup is awesome
9) Curries are too
10) On the whole I know that I eat well and healthily, but mindless snacking comes really easily to me. If I could swap out some of my crappy snacks for more fruit and veg, I might just hit that magic number of 10 portions a day!
How many portions do you reckon you eat in a day? More in the week or at the weekend? Any little changes you think you could make to up your intake? Like a banana and a handful of raisins on your breakfast cereal, an apple whilst walking to school or work, or an extra scoop of veg with your dinner. I’m all about progress, not perfection!
And what about your kids – how many portions do you manage to squeeze into them each day, and across the week as a whole? For meals at home I’m pretty confident that I’m getting lots of fruit and veg into my kids, but I’m a little in denial about school and nursery lunches, and the seemingly random combinations served up – pizza, half a jacket potato and sweetcorn, anyone? Carbs, carbs and carbs! It seems as if sweetcorn is the only vegetable consumed at school by my 8 year old. Nursery lunches seem a little more balanced, with 2 portions of vegetables every day, and fruit for puddings, albeit covered in custard, or in the form of a fruity dessert. The Easter holidays are coming up though, so that’s the perfect opportunity for me to keep a kids food diary to share on a future blog post…
Follow me: dippyeggplease on Instagram
@dippyeggplease on Twitter and Facebook