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Fruits and Vegetables – How to enjoy them as part of a balanced diet

A recent report from The British Nutrition Foundation found that more than 30,000 toddlers have never tired a vegetable! According to the most recent National Diet and Nutrition survey only eight per cent of children aged 11-18 years and 27% of adults aged 19-64 years are meeting the recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake. The average consumption for children aged 11-18 years is 2.8 portions per day.

So how many fruits and vegetables should we aim to eat each day? It might seem somewhat confusing based on recent media reports. Is it 5 A Day, 7 A Day or 10 A Day?

How Many Fruits and Vegetables should we aim eat each day?

One study in 2014 found those eating seven or more portions a day had a 33% reduced risk of death compared with people eating less than one portion. A 2017 report found people who regularly ate 10 portions had a significantly lower risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease. Should we then ignore the current Public Health England guidelines to eat at least 5 A Day?

Having five portions of fruit and veg a day was chosen by public health campaigners because it was seen as an achievable target for most people. The “5 a day” target was always meant to be a minimum target to hit, rather than the maximum. The 5 A DAY campaign is based on advice from the World Health Organisation, which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers. However, even if you are currently only eating two portions a day it is worth considering a gradual increase over time. Even small changes can have a significant impact on your long term health.

What does 5 a Day Look Like?

A child’s portion is equal to your child’s palm size.

One adult portion of fruit or vegetables is 80g. For example, three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables or one banana is the equivalent of one portion.

What counts?

You can aim to achieve your 5 A Day by including fresh, frozen and tinned varieties.

Tinned fruit should be in natural juice and not syrup (as this is a sugar). Tinned vegetables should be in plain/ spring water and not brine (as this is salted water). While dried fruit counts it is preferable to give them with other foods such as crackers or added to porridge as they can stick to the teeth and cause decay.

What about fruit juices and smoothies?

Our top tips to achieve 5 A Day!

Developing healthy eating patterns from a young age increases the likelihood of having healthy eating patterns as adults, so encouraging children to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables will benefit their health now and in the future.

5 Top Tips to encourage children to achieve their 5 A Day:

1. Involve children in meal and snack time preparation. They are more likely to eat something they have helped to create. Make food fun and attractive by using different colours and creating exciting snacks

2. Some children prefer raw vegetables to cooked ones; try offering sticks of raw carrot, pepper, celery or cucumber with a dipping sauce such as hummus or cream cheese

3. Eat together- children need to see others eating fruit and vegetables as this role modelling can encourage them. For example this could be parents, carers, nursery staff and other children

4. Keep serving it! Research supports the theory that children often need to be introduced to foods 5-15 times before they will accept it

5. Try not to react when a child refuses to eat. Instead parents and carers should respond calmly to send the message that they cannot use food to seek attention.

5 Top Tips for adults to achieve their 5 A Day:

  1. You can include some fruit as part of your breakfast, why not try some chopped banana with your porridge or some berries with your yoghurt.
  2. Think about your snacks during the day. Try and have a fruit bowl at work or at home.
  3. Add some vegetables to your sandwiches such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber or grated carrots.
  4. Add beans, lentils and pulses to stews, soups, bakes and salads. However much you eat, beans and pulses count as a maximum of one portion a day.
  5. You could also try to grow your own fruit and vegetables! Growing your own ensures you have fresh produce and could even save you money!

For more ideas you can visit the Change4Life website which has lots of recipe ideas.

If you would like to introduce new initiatives in the workplace to promote healthy food choices you can contact our Nutrition Team. Our Registered Nutritionists offer practical workshops tailored to your requirements.

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