When people talk about a healthy diet, they quite often mention getting your ‘five-a-day’; five portions of different fruits and vegetables each day. This advice is intended to get you to consume a good variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to help keep you in tip-top shape.
However, we’re here to tell you to ignore this advice. Not because it’s wrong – you absolutely should be eating plenty of fruit and veg – but because it doesn’t go far enough. If you want a really healthy diet, you’ll need to eat much more than just five portions per day. In fact, you should be aiming for closer to ten.
If you think that seems like a lot, don’t worry: we’re here to help. Not only will we tell you what contributes to your ten-a-day, we’re going to give you a meal plan that will give you an example of how to eat a healthy diet with all the nutrients you need.
What counts towards your ten-a-day?
For almost all fruit and vegetables, 80g counts as one portion. That’s the same whether you opt for fresh, frozen or canned, although fresh is arguably better for your health and definitely tastes nicer! If you do opt for canned, try to make sure you don’t choose anything with added sugar or salt, such as fruit pieces in syrup.
However, each different type of fruit and veg only counts once. So eating 160g of carrots, for example, doesn’t count as two portions. However, if you eat 80g of carrots and 80g of green beans, that does.
Dried fruit also counts, but each portion is only 30g. Fruit juices and smoothies also count, with 150ml making up a portion. You should try to limit these to one or two portions per day, as they all contain natural sugars that can harm your teeth.
Finally, while almost all fruits and vegetables count towards your daily portions, potatoes don’t. It’s not that they don’t contain valuable nutrients – they’re a good source of vitamin C, for example – but they’re starchy and therefore more calorie-rich than most veg. Sweet potatoes, yams and plantains all still count though.
Breakfast: Overnight oats with mixed berries
Overnight oats are simple to make. All you need to do is mix equal parts porridge oats, low-fat milk and greek yoghurt in a jar, and leave the concoction in the fridge overnight. The next morning, the whole thing will be delicious and creamy.
You can add whatever toppings you like, but for a hit of sweetness we recommend 80g of strawberries and 80g of blueberries. Mix them in with everything before putting your oats in the fridge, and their flavours will seep through the dish. That’s two portions of fruit already sorted!
Lunch: Roasted root soup
For a hearty lunch, chop half a red onion into roughly 2cm pieces, along with 150g each of carrots, parsnips and butternut squash, and a small potato. Put all the vegetables into a roasting tin and toss with a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, coriander and cumin, and about half a tablespoon of olive oil.
Heat your oven to 190C and roast these vegetables for 30 to 35 minutes, then add to a pan with about 500ml of vegetable stock. Use a handheld blender to puree it into soup, adding more stock if it is too thick.
This recipe makes two servings of the soup, which you can heat up in the microwave for a filling and nutritious lunch. It contains four portions of vegetables, but feel free to modify it to include more if you have any ideas.
A spicy Mexican chilli is a delicious way to end the day, and this one will have plenty of veg in. Chop an onion and a green pepper and saute in a pan with a little olive oil, then add 250g of beef, turkey or vegetarian mince and stir until it has browned. Add one or two cans of tomatoes and salt, pepper, chilli powder, cumin and paprika to taste.
Let the chilli simmer on a low heat for around 20 minutes, stirring regularly, then add a drained can of kidney beans and one of sweetcorn. Mix it all together and serve with rice or a baked potato. This will give you another four portions of veg, adding up to ten for the day.
This is just one example of how to easily eat all the fruit and veg you need, but there are plenty of others. Experiment with different meals packed with plenty of healthy ingredients, and don’t forget you can always snack on fruit to get even more portions in.