More than half of adults in Northern Ireland struggle to eat three portions of fruit and veg a week. This is shocking! It’s time to up our game for the good of our health.

It seems that the 5 a day message we struggle so hard to achieve is lower than levels that current research suggests as being beneficial.  According to a review of 95 studies published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2017, those eating 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day experienced a lower risk of cancer or heart attacks. Researchers found that vegetables contributed to decreased risk more strongly than fruit and that cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli etc.) provided the most benefits.

To make it easy think 1 portion = the size of your fist

Here are some simple ideas to help you up your game:

  1. Include one portion at breakfast. Add a handful of berries to cereal, slice a banana onto your toast or have 2 small tomatoes with your eggs.
  2. When you are cooking dinner chop some veg sticks to pop in the fridge for a healthy snack later or as part of lunch tomorrow. Carrot sticks, red peppers, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber all make a healthy nibble with some humous when you are feeling peckish.
  3. Focus on filling half your plate with vegetables at lunch as well as dinner. This could be a bowl of soup, some raw veg stick on the side or a colourful herby salad.
  4. Include a couple of fist-size portions of vegetables with dinner and make one of them something green. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, chard, kale, rocket and watercress are packed with essential nutrition and lots of these belong to the ultra healthy cruciferous group of vegetables.
  5. Make dinner healthier with a few simple but creative ideas like adding grated carrot and sliced leeks to spaghetti bolognese, using tinned tomatoes or passata instead of pasta sauce and roasting a big tray of mediterranean vegetables to eat with dinner and enough leftover for lunch tomorrow.
  6. Dinners like curry and chilli are a fantastic way to pack in the veggies. Vegetables like cauliflower, spinach and sweet potato work well in curry. Add peppers, carrot, leek, courgette and broccoli to chilli.
  7. Try swapping pasta or noodles to spiralled vegetables a couple of times a week to pack in the veggies, or swap chips to sweet potato wedges and try using steamed cauliflower as a mash for toppings for fish pie of shepherds pie.
  8. Dust off your Nutribullet and make a vegetable smoothie once or twice a week. Try avocado, spinach, apple, cucumber with ginger. Add some water or coconut milk and blitz it.
  9. Eat a rainbow. Aim to eat five different colours of frScreen Shot 2017-06-12 at 18.19.25uit and veg every day for optimum health. Check out the chart below from BANT for ideas.
  10. Eat more vegetables than fruit. Aim for a maximum of 2 portions of fruit a day and at least 3 or 4 vegetables to  limit your sugar intake and maximise your nutrition.