25 Tips to Get Your 10-a-Day
Remember when you used to fret about how on earth you were going to cram in your 5 portions of fruit-and-veg each day? Well it turns out that 5 wasn't even nearly enough. A recent study has concluded that we all need to be eating a whopping 10 portions a day in order to minimise the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature mortality in general. To give you an idea of what constitutes a portion, you need roughly 80g of fruit or veg. This could be a single banana, a pear or three heaped tablespoons of spinach. The majority of us don't come anywhere near this and there is a danger that people may become disheartened by what seems like an unrealistic target and stop trying altogether. This month I am going to be posting a tip each day, for 25 days, to help you achieve your 10 portions and maximise your health and nutrition.
- Make a delicious, healthy frittata. This quick and easy meal can be served as breakfast or lunch. Once you understand the basic steps for preparing a frittata, you can add practically anything you like to one. Here is a great recipe for an egg-white frittata, and another for a Mediterranean frittata to get you started. Frittatas are a great way to ensure you don't waste food as you can sweep your fridge for any vegetables that are about to turn and throw them in. Don't forget to experiment with adding herbs and spices to enhance the flavour while packing in even more nutrients!
2. Swap out starchy grains for cauliflower or broccoli rice. These veggie rice-substitutes taste best when fried in a little coconut oil, but you can also microwave or roast with some herbs. Try experimenting with different seasonings and cooking methods to find one that suits you best. In order to prepare the rice, simply cut the cauliflower or broccoli into small chunks, then pop in the blender until you achieve an even, rice-like consistency. If you don't have a blender handy, you can always use a grater for similar results. This is a quick and easy way to get an extra portion or two of your veg quota into a meal and can be just as filling as regular rice.
3. Try making pumpkin pancakes. Pancakes don’t have to be naughty to be nice. Try this delicious and healthy pumpkin pancake recipe and boost your 10-a-day effort!
4. Make a smoothie. Sometimes it can be challenging to eat so much fruit and veg in solid form, but blending it all up into a delicious smoothie is a great way of getting a few extra portions. Remember, any fruit or vegetables that go into your smoothie can still be counted towards your 10-a-day. Here is a recipe for a Green Chai Smoothie, and another for a Cherry Delight Smoothie, to get you started. There are plenty of other smoothies on my recipes page, so have a browse and feel free to experiment with the ingredients.
5. Pimp up your porridge. Have you ever tried swapping out the sugar and syrup for some savoury ingredients? You might be surprised by how good it tastes. Prepare your oats as usual, then add sautéed veg of your choice, or try grating some courgette and stirring it in. Instead of sugar, grate a little Parmesan cheese on the top.
6. Sneak it into family favourites. A good way to increase your fruit and veg intake is to simply supplement the recipes you and your family already know and love. What are your staples? Dishes like pasta bakes, stews or chilli are all ideal for adding in more veg. You can try pretty much anything, but spinach, peppers and broccoli go well in all these meals. If you're making a chilli, add more tomatoes as they'll simply disappear into the sauce and make it even more flavoursome, as well as nutritious. When deciding what veg to add, try to remember the basic rule that the more different colours you use, the more balanced your nutrition is likely to be. It's so important that your 10-a-day comes from a wide variety of sources in order to ensure that you aren't missing out on any vital nutrients. Colours are one of nature's ways of helping us with this.
...If you're making a chilli, add more tomatoes as they'll simply disappear into the sauce and make it even more flavoursome
7. Mix up your potato. Try adding sweet potatoes into your meals. Sweet potatoes can be used in much the same way as regular white potatoes, but have a very different flavour, so they can be a great substitute when you're getting bored of your King Edwards and your Maris Pipers. Additionally, they have a very different nutritional content, so it's a good idea to include both kinds as regularly as possible. If you are a fan of nutrition blogs, you may have read that sweet potatoes are much more healthy than their lighter cousins. This isn't actually true as both variants have their strong points (white potatoes have the upper hand when it comes to protein and essential minerals such as iron and potassium) however white potatoes don't count towards your 10-a-day, according to the NHS. Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids, reflected in their orange colour. Their phytonutrient properties actually help with weight loss by increasing adiponectin, a fat-reducing, insulin balancing, anti-diabetes hormone made by our fat cells. They are also packed with potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin B6. Finally, sweet potatoes rank much lower on the glycemic index than regular potatoes. Try out my recipe for sweet potato fritters to get your started.
8. Experiment with courgetti & boodles. You can get courgetti and boodles (butternut squash noodles) from most supermarkets or make your own with a spiralizer. These can be substituted for noodles in any meal and a single serving of boodles will count as 1 portion of veg. Try frying for a minute or two in coconut oil, then serve with Bolognese or Thai curries.
9. Swap wraps for lettuce. You might be surprised to learn that lettuce can make a very good substitute for tortilla wraps when you’re cooking fajitas or burritos. After washing, make sure the lettuce is well dried before using to stop it breaking. As you get more adventurous, you can also use tougher greens like kale or chard. Try this delicious recipe I use for a healthy lettuce leaf fajita.
10. Serve veggie tomato sauce. Making you own tomato sauce is far healthier than shop-bought varieties. Grate in carrot and finely chop peppers then add to passata or tinned tomatoes with fresh herbs like basil or oregano and blend in a food processor.
Avocados are one of the true superfoods.
11. Try making avocado & baked eggs. Avocados are one of the few true superfoods! Anyone who follows my articles and recipes will be well aware of their health benefits by now, but for the newer readers, here are a few of their benefits: Avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). They are naturally nutrient-dense and contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, E and K, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados have been linked with hearth health, bone health, cancer prevention, relief of depression, digestive health and protection from numerous chronic conditions. Remember, you only need to eat half of an avocado to get one portion of your 10-a-day. To make avocado and baked eggs, simply heat the oven to 220˚C, then halve an avocado and remove the stone. Place the avocado on a baking tray, crack an egg into the hole, then sprinkle with paprika and bake for 15-20 minutes.
12. Rethink pizza. There are so many fun things you can do with pizza, so why settle for pepperoni? Making a pizza from scratch is a lot of fun, but can be time consuming. Why not start with a fresh margherita base from the supermarket and then add your own vegetable toppings? Make sure it's fresh and avoid processed cheese if possible. Some of my favourite healthy toppings to add to pizza are: broccoli, garlic, mushrooms, olives, spinach, tomato puree, asparagus, ricotta. And don't forget the herbs and spices! Try adding a little chilli, basil or coriander to make those flavours burst!
13. Bring on the berries. It's easy to forget that berries count towards your 10-a-day. They taste great alone, or mixed into yoghurt, granola or porridge. All berries are high in antioxidants, but blackberries and goji berries are the best of the lot. Berries have been linked to protection from heart disease, cancer and emphysema. Don't forget to vary them as much as possible to get the maximum benefit. Try this delicious and healthy recipe for an antioxidant berry smoothie.
14. Embrace snacks! Many of us struggle with the urge to snack between meals. It can be all too tempting to reach for the biscuit tin or grab a chocolate bar on the way to a meeting. Why not use this urge to get in a couple of extra portions of veg? If you're at home, make sure you have vegetable-based snacks ready to eat so that they are as convenient to reach for as chocolate. Slice up some carrots and cucumbers to eat with a healthy guacamole dip or a little humous. Baby carrots, radishes and sugar snap peas are delicious and can be eaten without having to chop. If you're on the go all day, most supermarkets sell fruit and veg snack pots. It's a good idea to buy these before you get hungry so as to avoid the temptation to buy chocolate when the craving hits.
15. Try for one more portion with every meal. If you’ve been trained to think of dinner as protein, starch and one veg, challenge yourself to improve your portion count with the addition of one additional vegetable. Whatever you are making for any given meal, ask yourself ‘how can I add another vegetable to this?'
A green juice is the perfect way to start the day as you mean to go on.
16. Carry handbag snacks. Apples, pears and satsumas are perfect travelling companions, and teamed with a small handful of nuts, make the perfect blood sugar-balancing snack.
17. Combine fruit & veg in juice. A green juice is the perfect way to start the day as you mean to go on. Substituting some of the fruit for vegetables will help you to cut down on sugar. Here is a great green juice recipe to get you started.
18. Don't forget the pulses. Pulses, beans and lentils are incredibly healthy and count towards your 10-a-day, as well as being a great source of vegetable protein. Add them to soups, stews, or salads to help fill you up and get an extra portion. Most dried pulses and lentils will need to be soaked overnight before eating, so either check the packaging for instructions, or opt for the canned variety. Remember, pulses only count as a maximum of one portion a day, no matter how many you eat, so don't neglect the fruit and veg!
19. Spice up your rice. If you tried the broccoli or cauliflower rice and decided that it wasn't for you, why not try adding vegetables to your regular rice. If you're steaming some rice for a meal, simply add a few handfuls of peas or green beans a few minutes before the rice is done.
20. Top up your fruit bowl. Make sure you have a fruit bowl and always keep it well stocked. If your fruit is hidden away in a cupboard, it's too easy to forget about. Out of sight, out of mind! A fruit bowl looks great in a prominent position anywhere in your house and when you are constantly aware of it, it's so much easier to grab an apple, or a handful of grapes on the go. Remember, every time you decide to snack on an orange, you're deciding not to snack on chocolate.
21. Add a little puree. Just one spoonful of tomato puree will count as a portion of your 10-a-day. You don't need to reserve the puree for making tomato sauce; get creative and see how many meals you can work it into. Pizza bases and soups are good places to start, as are just about any pasta dishes. Or why not make some delicious tomato aïoli? Simply blend a garlic clove and half a teaspoon of tomato purée in a microwave on low-medium heat for 1 minute, cool, then add 125g of mayo to the mixture. Blend until roughly combined, then stir in a handful of finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes and serve with some sticks of celeray or carrots.
22. Make a big salad. Having a big salad for lunch is a super convenient way of working in many servings of vegetables and fruit. Green salads are on the menu of almost every restaurant. Healthy salads can be found at most fast food chains . And you can make a salad at home in minutes. Here is an example of the vegetables we added to our lunchtime tuna salad today: cucumber, celery, beetroot, red pepper, sugar snap peas, baby potatoes and asparagus. Please visit my recipes page to see the finished salad.
23. Freeze your fruit and veg. If you have fruits that are about to spoil, toss them into your freezer instead of the bin. If you want a sorbet-like texture, all you need to do is blend up frozen fruit with a bit of lemon juice and you will have a homemade sorbet. Frozen fruits and vegetables are usually picked at the height of their ripeness, when bursting with vitamins and minerals. They are then snap-frozen, locking in nutrients at their finest hour. Frozen means you get vegetables that are out of season and, best of all, if you are on the go all day long, preparation time is halved as you do not need to peel, cut and chop. With packets of frozen vegetables in your freezer, there's never an excuse not to add them to a meal.
24. Summer Desserts. Summer desserts made with seasonal fruit and berries are a great way to get those added portions of fruit. Here are 3 delicious, antioxidant-rich desserts that can actually be friendly to your natural beauty, help with weight loss and satisfy your sweet tooth.
25. Sunday Roasts. Today's final tip falls on a Sunday. There's no better day to mention the ease and benefits of roasted vegetables. I typically roast sweet potatoes, baby potatoes, parsnips, turnips and red onions together. Peel and cut into chunks, mix in a bowl with olive oil, pressed garlic cloves, rosemary and Himalayan salt. Place on an oven tray in a preheated oven (180°C) for at least one hour, longer if preferred. With greens, we like to mix broccoli, asparagus, courgettes, fennel, white onions or shallots. Mix in a bowl with olive oil, pressed garlic, mixed herbs. Place on a tray with whole garlic cloves and place in preheated oven (180°C) for one hour. Roasted vegetables are an essential part of a traditional Sunday dinner.