The next component on my POWER plate is E for Energising Vegetables & Fruit (with the emphasis on veg). #packedwithnutrients these are the non-starchy vegetables, the ones that grow above the ground, the green leafy ones that confer all their energy, vitality and even their immunity to us humans. They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre all required for a strong, healthy immune system which is more important than ever during this #COVID #pandemic.
Adding a little more colour to your plate every day can do wonders for your energy as well as your waistline, while keeping disease at bay.
Ideally, veg and fruit should occupy around a half the plate. But given that only 25% of the population eat their 5-a-day, the average plate is likely to fall way short of these energy-boosting, immune-enhancing foods.
12 Easy Ways to Eat More Vegetables Every Day
I know we're all time-poor and it's easier and quicker to grab a bowl of cereal in the morning or a quick sandwich at lunchtime. If you eat too many of these though, as well as the sweeter fruits like bananas and grapes, they are likely to drain your energy, so find some time to chop a few veg and you may well be rewarded with increased energy and enjoy a more productive day.
Get a regular veggie box – for example, Abel & Cole and Riverford offer a weekly delivery service. The veggies and fruit are organic and in season and encourage you to try something new and expand your veggie repertoire. The more colours the better as each colour confers a different benefit #eatarainbow.
Chop, chop, chop in advance. If you’re time-poor during the week you can prepare a few days’ worth of vegetables over the weekend. Sure, they may lose some of their nutrients but it’s a lot more realistic for many of us with busy schedules and it’s definitely a lot better than grabbing a chocolate bar. So switch the radio on, listen to a podcast and spend half an hour washing, trimming, chopping — so it’s ready to grab when you need it.
Store your vegetables on the top shelf of the fridge so they’re visible – I’ve just started to do this myself as so often vegetables can get left to rot at the bottom of the fridge drawer.
Make your veggies more tempting. If you find a lot of veggies simply boring and tasteless, find some inspiring ways to cook them. If steamed broccoli or cauliflower doesn’t do it for you, try roasting them. Not sure what to do with aubergine? Stick it in the oven for 40 minutes until soft, then scoop out the middle and blend with tahini, garlic, olive oil, pinch of salt for a delicious aubergine dip. You can turn your courgettes into ‘courgetti’ spaghetti, your cauliflower into ‘rice’ and you'll be a veggie addict in no time!
Add one more vegetable to your evening meals – and before you know it you’ll be eating seven more vegetables a week. You can improve the nutritional value of a pizza with a handful of kale or spinach or add grated courgettes or chopped mushrooms to your Bolognese. See how many different vegetables you can pack into what you’re already cooking.
Eat vegetables for breakfast – there’s more to breakfast than just cereal and if you’ve been following my POWER eating series, you’ll know that every meal, including breakfast, needs all the food groups to keep you sustained. So alongside your protein and healthy fats, consider how you can add veggies. Think of eggs and avocado on toast with some kale, omelettes or frittatas with mushrooms and spinach, or a shakshuka.
Drink your veggies! – Another breakfast (or brunch/lunch) idea is to throw your veggies into a green smoothie. My favourite has half an avocado, a chunk of cucumber, handful of spinach leaves with 1 piece of fruit, e.g. blueberries and two cups of water or almond milk. I also add some chia seeds and sometimes protein powder for extra protein. I'm a fan of Nuzest which is made from golden pea protein which being vegan makes it suitable for everyone.
Ferment your veggies! 80% of your immune system is in your gut so keep your good bacteria well nourished with fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, yoghurt, miso and sourdough. In fact a recent study linked the consumption of fermented vegetables with low COVID-19 mortality. #greathealthstartsinthegut
Eat a rainbow – variety is key to ensure your maximum intake of phytochemicals (phyto = plant) so eat as many colourful foods as you can for optimal health. The benefits of these chemicals may go beyond the power of vitamins and minerals. Fill up on phytochemicals.
Eat a salad at every meal –pre-washed bags of rocket or other leaves are readily available for easy, fast salads, together with all the veggies you chopped at the beginning of the week! I also keep a jar of home-made salad dressing (olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard) in the fridge.
Substitute raw vegetables for crackers, and breads and crisps – although there’s nothing wrong with the odd cracker or slice of good quality bread, it’s always good to control your carbs to stay energised and to maintain a healthy weight. See blog on Control your Carbs for an Energy-Filled Day. So having a container of cut-up pepper, celery and cucumber is fresher and healthier than a packet of crackers or crisps. Using an iceberg or gem lettuce leaf as an alternative to a wrap is another ruse for reducing the grainy carbs and increasing your veggies.
Don’t forget frozen vegetables! Frozen veggies are often overlooked and may even be more nutritious than their so-called ‘fresh’ counterparts. They are often frozen right at the farm, picked at their peak and can be just as tasty. They can be used for soups e.g. spinach and pea, added to quinoa, pasta or rice dishes. You can now get frozen herbs like coriander, parsley, dill that won’t sit wilting in your fridge drawer as well as chopped onions, shallots, chilli pepper, garlic and ginger. One of my clients refers to her freezer as her frozen garden – a great time-saver and cuts down on food waste too.
How much non-starchy veg should I eat each day?
As much as you like! There really is no limit on these nutritious powerhouses that are low in sugar but high in nutrition.
Go for 8-a-day
For many people, even the recommended 5-a-day is a tall order but the more veg we eat, the greater the health benefits. So set yourself a challenge and fill up on as many vegetables as possible.
For example, you could have tomatoes and mushrooms with scrambled eggs for breakfast - that's 2. For lunch, a salad with cucumber, lettuce and avocado (3); some feta cheese and olives for your snack (1); then broccoli and beans with your main meal (2) – simple!
They can also be added to salads, soups, stuffed into your pitta breads or wraps – so there really are no excuses!
How much fruit should I eat each day?
Given the sweetness of fruit, it's best to limit to two portions a day if you wish to keep your blood sugar balanced and not experience the energy dips later in the day. That said, a portion of fruit can be very substantial if it's not too sweet and you'll see below that berries and cherries come out top!
What about dried fruit?
Dried apricots, dates, figs, cranberries, raisins etc. have had their water removed, resulting in a high concentration of sugar. Best therefore to limit these to three or four of the larger pieces of dried fruit and 10-15 of the smaller pieces.
Eat protein with your fruit
If you're planning to eat a piece of fruit for your snack, always consume with some #protein e.g. a few nuts and seeds for longer lasting sustenance.
Read more about Energising Vegetables & Fruit here.
If you'd like me to help you and your colleagues make healthier food choices to enhance energy and performance at work, please click below to discover more about my talks and workshops.