We’re all used to hearing that we need to get our 5 a day in but you may have heard people speaking about aiming for 10-a-day. Why is this? Back in 2017, a large systematic review (this is a large analysis and review of lots of studies on a topic) concluded that the greatest risk reduction in cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality was observed when 10+ portions of fruit and vegetables were consumed daily (1). This is pretty cool seeing as CVD and cancer are the top causes of death in Ireland. It’s also not surprising when you think of all the good vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre in them!
However, recent results from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) Report for Northern Ireland showed that on average 80% of adults were not meeting the recommended five-a-day (2). On average adults aged 19 to 64 years consumed 3.4 portions per day while adults aged 65 years and over consumed 3.3 portions per day (2).
The benefit of such a high intake is appealing but it might also be a little daunting, and that’s okay! “10-a-day, but that’s nearly double? How do you even go about doing this?”Keep reading to find out:
1. Build your breakfast around them
Breakfast is a meal which is typically low in fruit and vegetables. A few simple tricks can help to rectify this. Try adding some grilled tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and wilted spinach to your usual eggs. Or if you have a sweet tooth at breakfast time try topping your oats with berries or chopped banana.
2. Dish them up for dinner
Dinner is a great opportunity to fill up on different vegetables. They’re also low in calories so they’re great to fill up on if you’re someone who gets very hungry in the evening. Top tip: take the opportunity to cook double for lunch the next day!
3. Get sneaky
If you or someone you cook for struggles with eating vegetables, then sneaking them into meals is for you! Curries, stews, casseroles, bolognaise, chillies, omelettes and lasagnes are all perfect hiding places for veggies, am I right? Chop them up small and you won’t even know they’re in there! Our chilli con carne is great for this.
4. Jazz them up
Vegetables do not have to be boring! A plate of overcooked, limp broccoli isn’t going to be appealing to anyone. Herbs and spices are your best friend when it comes to making your veggies more exciting. Try roasting a tray of vegetables (carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and broccoli are a delicious combination) with a drizzle of oil, sea salt, garlic and rosemary.
5. Drink them
Smoothie weather is fast approaching! There’s nothing as refreshing as a post-workout smoothie. Aim to include a protein source, such as protein powder or Greek yogurt, some greens (you won’t taste a handful of spinach, promise!) and some fruit of choice such as banana and berries. Frozen fruit is very affordable and works really well as it gives the smoothie a thick and creamy texture. Try out our recipe.
6. Drink them with a spoon
Soups are like a warm hug in the tummy and another affordable way to add a variety of vegetables to your diet. This is a good way of using up those vegetables that look a bit limp and sad in the end of the drawer.
7. Grate them
Courgette or carrot works in oats - trust me. If you’re not ready just yet to add vegetables to your oats, try adding mashed banana or grated apple when cooking them.
8. Snack on them
Fruit and veggies sticks make the best portable, low calorie snacks. Throw some fruit in your bag or chop up some carrots and celery and bring it with you in Tupperware.
9. Chuck them in a salad
Summer and salads go well together - They’re also a fantastic way to include a range of vegetables. Salads are also portable. Choose some leafy greens as a base, add some crunch like grated carrot, a pop of colour with some beetroot or peppers and some sweet potato as a carbohydrate source.
10. Pick pulses
Pulses and beans can also contribute one portion to you 10-a-day. They’re also a great way to bump up the fibre content of your meal.
Hopefully now you feel more confident tackling the 10-a-day challenge! Don’t forget, the main thing is starting where you’re at now and improving on that. Any increase in your intake of fruit and vegetables will do wonders for your health.
1. Aune D, Giovannucci E, Boffetta P, Fadnes LT, Keum NN, Norat T, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality-A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol. 2017;
2. Food Standard Agency Northern Ireland. National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) Report for Northern Ireland [Internet]. 2019.