We all know that fruits and vegetables are vitally important to include in the daily diet. There are many great reasons for this but primarily they are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, so it makes sense to eat them as often as possible.
Unfortunately, we know from the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) that only around 27% of the UK population are managing even the basic minimum of five portions per day. However, there are some easy ways of getting more into your diet.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top tips for including fruits and vegetables at every mealtime.
Boost your Breakfast
We all want to feel energised at the beginning of the day and having the right fuel can really help set you on a good path. It’s important to include protein at breakfast time to get blood sugar and energy levels in good balance throughout the day. However, a jump start of more energy is always welcomed!
How about cooking up a delicious spinach omelette with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes? This meal is super-charged because spinach is rich in both energising B vitamins and iron. Plus, mushrooms contain some immune-boosting vitamin D (although supplementation is still needed) and tomatoes are rich in antioxidants so help shield the body from damaging free radicals.
However, if you prefer a fruitier start to the day, you can still enjoy the health benefits from spinach but in a delicious green banana smoothie. Bananas are loaded with energising vitamin B6 and why not add some ginger and mango which are both great for the immune system. Coconut water is high in potassium which is great for the heart and you can even throw in a few kale leaves for an additional nutrient burst.
Load up at lunch time
When we’re busy, on the run or in and out of zoom or team meetings, lunch can sometimes get forgotten. We should always remember that each meal is a time for re-fuelling and getting valuable nutrients into the body. If we miss a meal, we miss out big time!
Lunch does not need to be complicated and time-consuming to prepare it just needs to be colourful. How about poaching a piece of salmon the night before and putting it into a colourful salad? Whilst salad vegetables are high in water, so not always the highest in nutrients, if you include an avocado, you’ll not only feel fuller for longer, you’ll be getting the benefits of Vitamin E for your skin and immune system.
Alternatively, you can cook up some quinoa the day before and again add loads of salad vegetables or pre-roasted veggies of your choice to the mix. The more colour you include, the greater the amount of plant antioxidants which help support immunity, protect the body against disease and keep us looking young and fresh.
Dive in at Dinner
There’s been an enormous upsurge in people ordering in meals from fast food apps during lockdown. Unfortunately, we know from statistical data that this has also led to a prevalence of nutrient deficiencies, which can make us more prone to illness.
A take-away or delivery meal is no bad thing occasionally, but nothing beats home-cooked food for the wealth of nutrients it provides. And it doesn’t need to be complicated either! Plan a stir fry which includes chopped peppers, onion, carrots, baby sweetcorn, chopped broccoli and mange tout. Add flavourings such as soy sauce, coriander, and sweet chilli sauce and a protein source of choice for a quick, colourful and super nutritious dinner.
Each fruit or vegetable brings a wealth of nutrients to the table: variety is key, and the body gets a balanced spread. In terms of vegetables, the cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and pak choi) are extremely nutrient dense, and especially rich in magnesium which we know to be deficient in the average diet. Magnesium is essential for so many bodily processes including for hormone balancing, and good nerve and brain function. Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in fibre which helps to keep the bowels working smoothly.
And if vegetables really aren’t your bag, then they can always be ‘disguised’ in dishes such as spaghetti bolognaise, pasta sauces, curries and other spicy dishes.
So, try to include as many fruits and vegetables in your daily diet as possible – your body will definitely thank you for it.
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