You might have seen in the media recently some research that suggests that, rather than aiming for five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, we ought to be targeting seven or more. I’m naturally cautious of health related stories, particular as I’m heightened to them at the moment because I’m in the middle of Ben Goldacre’s rant, ‘Bad Science‘ but also because a lot of media stories about health are populist nonsense seeking to grab out attention for a nanosecond, and a good old fashioned scare story normally does the trick.
However, I’m inclined to think that a higher target for fruit and vegetables each day is a good thing. Most of the impartial, objective advice to living long and healthy seems to revolve around eating fruit and vegetables in combination with not smoking, doing exercise, avoiding to much drink and generally being a bit of a goody two shoes. So raising the target should have a side effect of raising the game of those on two or three pieces of fruit and veg a day just through exasperated guilt.
One of those might be Rosie Millard, who wrote – exasperatedly – about all this fruit and veg she now has to eat. Now, Rosie was a charming screen presence as BBC Arts correspondent in the early noughties and continues to write now, and I’m sure she’s a lovely person. But her barren breakfast, reluctant lunchtime apple, and evening fish fingers needs some work.
I’m no angel when it comes to food. I’m a fish eating vegetarian (or what vegetarians would call an ‘omnivore’) who doesn’t like many vegetables. I am prone to fish and chips once a week if I can get away with it, and my exercise routine could be written on the back of a stamp without a pen. But I don’t struggle to get at least five portions (usually more) of fruit and veg a day because I’ve found what I like and I try to substitute bad snacks – crisps, chocolate, cake – with better snacks. Here’s a sample.
My breakfast usually consists of muesli. I highly recommend the award winning stuff from Lidl. It’s by far the best I’ve had and is full of crunchy nuts, raisins and dried fruit. I always add raspberries and blueberries, which I feel deprived of without. I always make a sandwich for work; whether it’s fish or cheese, I normally add some kind of salad – rocket, lettuce, tomatoes. I will take two pieces of fruit – normally a Pink Lady apple (sweet, crisp, crunchy) and a banana and will buy some grapes or mango at lunch along with a bottle of beetroot juice (although I accept that fruit juices are not as good as fresh fruit).
My wife and I don’t buy pre-prepared meals. We always try to make something if we can (and Rosie, we have kids aged 4 and 2 who will eat with us most of the time). This will revolve around pasta with a sauce, or risotto, stir fry, a pizza (base and sauce all prepared fresh) or a curry. Once you have these, fitting three of four veg into them is a doddle, anything from onion, pepper and carrot to peas, spinach and courgette. We use frozen peas and spinach to add to most hot dishes or into the pasta water while the pasta boils. It’s really easy. We do have sausage and chips now and again, but we’ll cut the chips from potatoes rather than reaching for a bag of frozen chips and steam some broccoli florets to go with it. It really is no hassle at all; you can involve the kids in making it, they get used to eating fresh food and we share meals together.
Eating fruit and veg is essential for a good healthy life but more than that it helps kids learn, it brings families together and it avoids having to pay lots of money on processed food. And far from being difficult or virtuous, it’s straightforward and time can be made for it. Does that help, Rosie?