Sunday, 25 November 2012

STEPS 6 - Pump up the fruit and veg


Unless you have been hiding under a rock, or perhaps even a boulder for the last few years, you would have heard the old slogan, 'eat 2 fruit and 5 veg a day'.

And yet sadly only 15% of Australian men and 13-14% Australian women actually achieve this target*.  When I ask myself why the stats are so low, I think, is it taste? Cost?  Meat and carbs portions taking greater share of the plate?  The influx of 'snacks' on the market taking away share from good old fashioned fruit?.....

I would think that if you then broke that stat down into fruit vs veg, a far greater percentage of people would eat the 2 serves of fruit than the 5 serves of veg.  And possibly more than 2 serves of fruit???!  From speaking to people about this over the years, often fruit is thought of as a substitute for veg, especially for kids.  And whilst I am not someone strongly against fructose and fruit like some professionals (and non-professionals), fruit is not a suitable substitute for veg - they have quite different nutrient sets and bring some different benefits to the diet.  So, VEG IS IMPORTANT TOO!!

The '2 and 5' slogan isn't overly descriptive though, leaving a bit of ambiguity around what '2' and '5' actually means in real terms.  Do you know what is considered to be a serve of fruit and a serve of veg?

This simple poster below breaks it down for you.

So when you think of your typical daily food consumption, would you reach the recommended serves of fruit and veg?  I have to say quite honestly I probably wouldn't some days.   We eat a lot of vegetables, going through at least two crisper drawers full each week, but when things aren't going to plan, (which can often be the case with two little boys!) a day can go by with me missing lunch (or what I would call a desirable lunch!) which then leaves the pressure on dinner to provide me with 2 1/2 cups of cooked veg, or 5 cups of salad!!  Yep, I'll put my hand up and say I need to focus on this a little more!

So why is this group of foods considered so very important to our health?  Well apart from being naturally low in salt, sugar, and fat, the list of nutrients they contain collectively are a mile long!  And the nutrient set changes again depending on whether they are cooked or not.  For example, cooking tomatoes increases the phytochemical, lycopene, known for its cancer fighting ability.  But as well, heating fruits and vegetables does result in a loss of water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B.
 They are a great source of fibre and contain plant chemicals, called phytochemicals, known for their protective benefits.  They also contain multiple minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and folic acid.

What a nutrient set hey?!

Here are some other useful facts:

  • The skin of many fruits and veg contain high amounts of fibre as well as a concentration of nutrients just under the skin, so where possible keep the skin on!  I very rarely peel carrots, potatoes, apples, pears or pumpkin, and definitely NOT mushrooms!! (saw it on a show once and couldn't understand why you would do that!).  An additional benefit is less waste (although if you compost I guess the worms wouldn't be too happy with my suggestion!).
  • Use the stalk of broccoli and cauliflower!  Apart from the fact that you are paying for it, there are large numbers of nutrients within the stalk and when cooked (my dad actually just munches on the stalks raw!) they have a lovely flavour, and can be used to bulk up the veg content. 
  • To retain the most amount of nutrients in vegetables, steam at the lowest temperature possible as heat does destroy some of the vitamins.  However, that is not to say that if you are not eating raw veggies, don't bother!!  They are still loaded with lots of healthy benefits, no matter which way you serve them!  A regular mix of raw and cooked will give you the largest array of nutrients available.
  • To ensure your cooked veggies stay bright and appetizing when they hit the table (as opposed to limp and grey), cook until they are slightly soft but still hold their shape and plunge into ice cold water to retain colour (especially true with broccoli and green beans).
  • To ripen an avocado quicker, place in a paper bag with a couple of bananas!  (Or if you don't want the avocado to ripen any further, keep it away from them!!)
  • Eat seasonally to get the most amount of nutrients from your food!
OK, so this task is all about focusing on increasing your fruit and veg intake, the target being to get to 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of veg each day.  Relying on dinner to provide 5 serves of veg is generally not going to happen, so get motivated to incorporate some into your lunches and even breakfasts (yes, I'm talking to myself here too!!).
Try salad wraps, prebaked potatoes loaded with salad and legumes or a veggie loaded frittata for lunch, wilted spinach leaves, 1/4 an avocado and a grilled tomato on your toast in the morning, and snacks like carrot/celery sticks with hommus dip.

As always, you will find it interesting to look back on a small journal written at the start of each task to remember how far you have come when the program is complete, and don't forget to check out Mellymaks facebook page regularly for related conversation, meal ideas and for any questions you may have regarding this task (or anything for that matter!).

Here are some recipes from Mellymaks that could get you started in your quest to boost fruit and veg intake.

Just one last thing I want to mention, and those of you who know me personally or have read my blog for awhile will know my passion for kids health.  And so I just wanted to say that exposing your kids to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables at a very young age (from the introduction of solids really) is so very important for their future attitude towards these foods and healthy eating in general.  EVEN if/when they never eat them, having them present on their plate and seeing the rest of their family happily eating them is laying solid foundations for future eating patterns.  Stick with it, only put a small piece of each vegetable/fruit (although fruits are less of an issue generally with kids) on their plate at a time, and try not to make dinner a miserable experience for them by forcing peas down their throat (!!).  Keep the dialogue positive, especially when they make the effort to taste something, and you will be surprised at what may happen in the future.
OK, rant over!  Just felt it was necessary to mention for this task specifically!!

So, I can't wait to hear your thoughts!  Is this an easy task for you and your family??  Or more of a challenge?


Some reputable websites are listed below with great information on fruit and vegetables, recipes and other tips and tricks!

* Sourced from Australian Healthy Food Guide, Dec 2012


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