I do not eat enough fruit and vegetables.

Although I try to eat a healthy diet and try to force down my greens when they are on my plate, I am stuck somewhere between an adult who is interested in looking after his health and a 7 year old boy who just hates salad.

In addition to this I am not a fan of cooking in general and have often said that, if it were possible, I would replace all meals with a single tablet that contained all of the nutrients and dietary requirements I needed.

This is often quite a controversial thing to say and has even seemed to almost offend some people. So I suppose I should give the caveat that I do still enjoy eating dinner in nice restaurants with friends, family or a lady… I just think that my general day-to-day meals fall under necessity rather than pleasure: there are just far to many other things I would prefer to be doing with my time.

The plan therefore is to find manageable and efficient ways to meet all of the requirements of a healthy, or even extraordinary, diet with as little effort and time as possible (I won’t be browsing open air farmer’s markets for hours just yet). Also, maybe by making it simple, I am more likely to maintain this diet indefinitely.

So lets start with making sure I eat my ‘5 a day’.

 

The Requirements as stated by the NHS:

The NHS suggests that I should try to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables to get the best results. Most fruit and vegetables will count, and it does not have to be fresh to count as one portion. Also, it is good to know that fruit or veg inside another dish or meal can also count. However, this is very hard to measure and keep track of… so that will just have to remain a bonus for now. So here is a list of what will count:

  • Fresh or frozen fruit and veg
  • Dried fruit (currants, dates, sultanas and figs)
  • 150ml of fruit or vegetable juice (although this counts as one portion a day even if you drink more)
  • A smoothie containing whole fruit and/or vegetable pulp. Interestingly, this can count as more than one portion depending on how it’s made (sounds promising!)
  • Beans and pulses count but only as one portion a day, no matter how many you have because they have fewer nutrients than other vegetables.
  • Sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips

Sad times for potatoes, yams, cassava and plantain as they are off the team and do not count.

 

What is ‘one portion’?

Mr NHS says that one portion of fruit or veg for an adult, such as myself, is 80g. I presume that means I am looking at 400g a day of fruit/veg. To break that down into ‘easy to grab’ amounts it works out in the following way:

One fresh fruit portion is:

  • Two or more small fruit, such as 2 plums, 2 satsumas, 2 kiwi fruit, 3 apricots, 6 lychees, 7 strawberries or 14 cherries
  • One piece of medium fruit, such as an apple, banana, pear, orange or nectarine
  • Half a grapefruit, 1 slice of papaya, 1 slice of melon (5cm slice), 1 large slice of pineapple or two 2 slices of mango (5cm slices)

Dried Fruit:

One portion of dried fruit is about 30g. Approximately one heaped tablespoon of raisins, currants or sultanas, one tablespoon of mixed fruit, two figs, three prunes or one handful of dried banana pieces.

Tinned fruit (natural juice not syrup):

One portion is about the same amount of fruit that you would eat fresh, so: two pear or peach halves, six apricot halves or eight segments of tinned grapefruit.

One Vegetable portion is:

  • 2 broccoli spears or 4 heaped tablespoons of cooked kale, spinach, spring greens or green beans count as one portion
  • 3heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables, such as carrots, peas or sweetcorn, or eight cauliflower florets count as one portion
  • 3 sticks of celery, a 5cm piece of cucumber, 1 medium tomato or 7 cherry tomatoes
  • Tinned and frozen is about the same as one fresh portion e.g. three heaped tablespoons of frozen mixed veg.

5 a day smoothie - Kale

Earlier we also mentioned that smoothies could count as more than one portion, as long as fit some criteria. For a single smoothie to qualify as being two portions, it must contain either:

  • 80g of whole fruit/veg and at least 150ml of a different type of 100% fruit/vegetable juice, or
  • 80g of whole fruit/veg and at least 80g of a different type of whole fruit/veg

 

Final rule just to remove the obvious short cut:

No, vitamin pills do not count in your 5 a day and they are not a replacement… Dammit!

 

The Solution:

Taking all of this into consideration I have decided to try and fit my 5-a-day into a single smoothie. It needs to be quick to prepare, easy to store and easy to clean. All of the ingredients need to be readily available all year round and not perish to quickly.

I want to have a mixture of both fruit and vegetables as too much fruit pulp will have a very high sugar content, which wouldn’t do my teeth much good in the long run.

There are lots of super foods out there that I would like to include and I would also like to have a range of benefits from different ingredients e.g.

  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli – to still be able to mentally outwit your foes in later years
  • Spinach – because Popeye knew what he was talking about when he ate it for muscles
  • Kale – because anything that will keep prostate cancer at bay is worth having

And finally it would be ideal if it tasted at least a little less than terrible…this could be the final hurdle in making it a long term solution.

 

Getting the right equipment:

In order to start making smoothies, I’m going to need a blender and some scales to measure out one portion.

Breville Blend Active VBL062

I decided on the ‘Breville Blend-Active VBL062’ as it fits my criteria – The blender container doubles as a drinking bottle meaning that there are just 3 pieces to wash. It feels like a well built product that will last and it takes up minimal space. Finally it seems to be able to handle frozen fruit/veg, nuts and ice.

 

Choosing the ingredients:

First Smoothie (based on ideas found browsing online recipes):

5 a day smoothie

  • Cherries (frozen) – 14
  • Orange – 1 whole fruit, peeled
  • Broccoli – 2 large pieces
  • Kale – 1 large handful
  • Spinach (frozen)– 80g
  • Water – 150ml followed by a 200ml top-up after initial blend

This should cover my daily requirements for fruit and veg. It doesn’t look too great at first, but once you get over that it actually doesn’t taste too bad. The texture is a little strange due to the thousands of pieces of kale and spinach but, again, you get used to it.

I tried to force it all down in one swift chug, but it is actually quite hard work. In fact I think it made the ‘not-so-smoothie’ more of a chore than it needed to be.

5 a day smoothie

I cant say I’m looking forward to having it again on day two, but it is also manageable considering that this is an exercise in bringing my diet up to a strong basic and consistent standard rather than creating a pleasant drink to enjoy on sunny days.

5 a day smoothie

Ways to optimise:

  • Frozen is good – Frozen food lasts longer and conveniently makes a chilled smoothie
  • Freezer bags help to separate portions, reduce packaging and can turn your freezer into one big game of Tetris
  • If you are not keen on spending you’re days wandering the isles of a supermarket, ordering online is a great option

 

Final Thought:

I’m keen to make this a daily routine. I will update this after my initial test period.

 

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