Food and Behaviour Research

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24 February 2017 - The Guardian - Meet the people who eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day

Sarah Marsh


See the associated news story that this report is based on, and the other links on that page:

Forget five a day, now it’s all about getting 10 portions of fruit and vegetables into your diet. That is according to scientists who say doing this could prevent up to 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide.

But how do you make sure you get your 10 a day (about 800g of fruit and veg)? We asked those of you who already consume this amount. Here is a selection of responses.

Jenny Broomfield 27, from Oxfordshire – ‘Cook from scratch. If you do that it will allow you to pack vegetables in’

It’s not a big deal at all. I started eating more greens after joining Weight Watchers. On this diet you are allowed to eat as much fruit and vegetables as you like, it’s not included in your daily points you have to eat within. That encouraged me to pack everything full of vegetables. I had 10 or more portions (if not more) a day. Now I no longer follow that plan to the letter but I have developed good eating habits that stayed with me. I have lost over four-and-a-half stone.

I buy a lot of vegetables and put them into what I eat. I don’t even think about it any more. For example, on Saturday night I had a pasta bake with four peppers, massive courgettes, mushrooms and onions and not much pasta. That was low calorie and five portions of vegetables all in one meal.

I do still eat meat but have smaller portions of it now. I snack on fruit as well, so I eat cherry tomatoes, satsumas, pineapples, that sort of thing. My advice is to cook from scratch. If you do that it will allow you to pack vegetables into every meal. Meals such as lasagnes, shepherd’s pie, curries – even pizzas – can be loaded up with delicious veg. It’s worth it because as well as the added vitamins the likelihood is you will be consuming fewer calories. Also vegetables are so much cheaper, which is incentive enough.

Adam Marks, 37, from Bristol – ‘Invest in a smoothie maker’

I’m vegetarian, but this doesn’t mean I only eat vegetables. Most of my diet is protein-heavy stuff like Quorn, tofu and other soya products. So getting vegetables into every meal can be a struggle. But having said that, I’ve recently discovered an easy way to do it: homemade smoothies. I usually have one for my lunch using a 600ml bottle. It might not sound like much but it’s surprisingly filling. Plus, it’s an easy way to get at least five portions of fruit and veg a day. If I’m still hungry in the afternoon, I have a handful of nuts or seeds. The rest of my intake comes from other meals. I usually have an apple with my breakfast toast, and a good-sized amount of leafy greens or broccoli with dinner.

People forget that a “portion” of fruit and veg is not a huge amount. For example, 80g of banana is a pretty small banana. The same amount of blueberries is a little handful. You don’t have to hide the rest of your food. And best of all, it’s cheap.

I adopt this way of eating for health reasons mainly, and also for weight control. Eating a good amount of vegetables with a meal means you need less fatty or carbohydrate-rich foods on the same plate to feel full. My favourite smoothie includes bananas, blueberries, fresh baby spinach, cucumber, strawberries and raspberries. I mix it up with some skimmed milk. I judge the size of each portion by eye, having weighed them roughly the first time I made it.

It’s best to introduce vegetables gradually. Try substituting them into recipes instead of things like potatoes. You’ll feel just as full, but it’ll be way healthier. At some point it will become second nature. Oh and buy a smoothie maker.

Rakin Choudhury, 23, from Hull – ‘I would say prepare your meals in advance as much as you can’

I am dedicated with fitness and try to prepare meals in advance, so I incorporate a lot of vegetables. I would count fruit as dessert. I started eating more healthily a couple of years ago when I left a long-term relationship. I was unhappy with my weight so I decided to change my diet and gym routine. It took a while to get the balance right as it can be expensive. It’s much cheaper if you get frozen fruit and vegetables. It’s routine now, I don’t think about it. When my office has McDonald’s Fridays I have a sandwich or porridge. It’s normal to me now.

To try to get more vegetables and fruit in your diet I would say prepare your meals in advance if you can. That’s what I do. I prepare all my food for the week on Sunday. Also if you are having pasta, have a salad with it. Or eat an apple with breakfast. It’s as simple as that. Another way to get enough good stuff in is by making smoothies. Ten portions a day sounds daunting but it’s not. I feel great for it.

Cathy, 60 from Thames Ditton – ‘My advice is don’t buy processed foods’

I have always eaten a lot of fruit and vegetables. In an average day I have a banana and blueberries in my porridge, an apple or pear and nuts as a snack. Then lunch is a salad of mixed coloured lettuce, cherry tomatoes etc and either chicken breast or salmon. I will snack on an apple afterwards. Late afternoon I have some nuts and dried fruits (cranberries or maybe some strawberries in season). Then for dinner I eat meat and broccoli and carrots, or kale and carrots, followed by melon and orange cut up as a fruit salad. I make that about 10 portions.

My weakness is cake and chocolate so my diet is liberally sprinkled with these plus spoonfuls of peanut butter and honey.

I don’t believe in measuring. Fruit tends to come in convenient meal-size portions ready-made (a pear, apple, banana etc). With vegetables I just fill my plate up, it’s not rocket science.

If I have a bad day eating with loads of bread, cakes and sweets I feel horrible mentally and physically. I still do it though sometimes.

Fruit and veg are cheap so I don’t know why people don’t buy more. I’m driven by my determination to stay active and healthy well into old age. My advice is don’t buy processed foods.

Tamraparni Dasu, 55, from New Jersey, US – ‘The food I grew up with was centred around vegetables’

My mother was a terrific cook, and coming from the Andhra region of India, we ate three- to four-course meals, each with a different type of vegetable dish. Every celebration included multiple courses. When I got married, I was introduced to a whole new cuisine, also vegetarian, from Palghat [a city in southern India]. And when none of the restaurants could match the quality of my mother and mother-in-law’s cooking, I was forced to strike out on my own and start experimenting with recipes.

Breakfast for me is usually chapati or toast with a leftover veggie dish, like curried cauliflower. I snack on almonds and fruit. I go a bit fruit crazy, sometimes eating an entire bunch of grapes. Lunch is usually a big bowl of fruit and vegetables in a salad and then dinner will be chapati or rice and maybe eggplant or another vegetable dish.

I feel healthy and energetic, and attribute my good skin and hair to eating lots of fruit and vegetables. My advice is always cook at home, buy fresh produce every week (daily is hard for most of us working shifts). We cook together as a family and friends and it makes it more fun. There are lots of resources for vegetarian cooking, which have exploded in the last decade. Variety is important so improvise from as many cuisines as possible (Italian, Chinese, Mexican, all south Asian and east Asian). Improvise and it is OK to fail, scrape off the burnt broccoli and move on.

Anonymous, from north Wales – ‘I add vegetables to add flavour but also to add bulk and nutrients cheaply’

I get 10 portions a day. I have to work to a tight budget but also cooking is something I enjoy and take pride in. I cook our evening meals myself and while I enjoy trying out recipes I mostly cook standard stuff, such as spaghetti bolognese or stews. I add a variety of vegetables to every meal both to add flavour but also to add bulk and nutrients cheaply.

My spaghetti bolognese recipe, for instance, includes chopped onion, garlic, a red pepper and a tin of tomatoes. Also maybe a stick of celery, carrot or a handful of mushrooms chopped and sweated with the onion to start with. I do the same sort of thing with my stews and curries. I add in a bit of whatever vegetable I have to hand. I use my slow cooker a lot and that means the vegetable cooks down nicely to become part of a delicious sauce. A couple of sweet potatoes added to anything like that are delicious.

The key to getting it done is to not see it as a chore or a big thing. Just grab a glass of orange juice with breakfast. Or a cheese or ham salad sandwich with lettuce, tomato and cucumber for lunch. Then snack on a banana. Throw lots of vegetable in your dinner with apple pie to follow. There, you’ve had your 10 portions without even realising.