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93% of Australians don't eat enough veggies; here's how to join the 7%

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Here’s a fun game to play. Look back at what you ate yesterday, and tell me – how much fruit and veg did you manage to get into your day?

Here are some answers for you to choose from:

a) “Five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit, of course. I am a superhuman that greatly values the nutrients that can be found in the goodness of clean food – particularly green, leafy vegetables.”

b) “Two serves. An apple at morning tea and a small side-salad with my dinner.”

c) “Do the little capsicum bits on my Crust pizza topping count?”

If you answered “a”, you don’t need me or this post. Go and eat your stir-fry while basking in the glow of all your health. (Are you Gwyneth Paltrow, by any chance?)

If you answered “b” or “c”, you might want to read on. Because this article is for those of you who haven’t quite managed to get a hold of that whole fruit-and-vegetable thing yet. And don’t worry – you’re really not alone. In Australia, a whopping 93% of us don’t eat enough veggies. 

Believe it or not, we all need to be getting those five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit. Every single day. And that’s not just to torture you – those numbers are based on evidence. If you eat enough fruit and veg, it can decrease your risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancer.

I spoke to two experts in the veggie field to troubleshoot every problem that you might come across in your veggie-eating journey. Here are your solutions.

“I don’t like vegetables”

Pizza counts!

I posed this problem to Kirsty Welsh, a health and wellness expert and personal trainer. Here's what she had to say:

"THERE ARE SO MANY VEGETABLES! How can you stand there and say you don't like them? That's a shitfight of a mindset.

You have to change your mentality. If you swear you don't like vegetables, you're probably just associating healthy food with stuff that doesn't have much flavour. You probably think healthy food has to be a piece of lettuce.

Guess what? It doesn't have to be. There are so many ways to groove up vegetables - you just have to try."

"I don't know how to include vegetables in my diet"

Amy Vero, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, offers the following suggestions:

"Try to incorporate some fruit and veg into every meal - that way, you gradually fill your daily quota throughout the day.

For breakfast, try adding fruit to your cereal or yogurt, or blending fruit for smoothies. For lunch, make homemade pizzas topped with plenty of vegetables, a vegetable soup or add salad to your sandwich. And for dinner, try and add as many vegetables to meals as you can. You can add carrot, cucumber, tomato and mushrooms to a spaghetti Bolognese. Or go for stir fries with plenty of vegetables."

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Even dessert can be delicious but healthy. Puree fruit and pour it into ice block moulds, then have that for dessert. Yogurt, fruit and muesli parfaits also make for a yummy dessert."

An apple a day is a good start... just make sure it isn't poisoned.

Kirsty also explains some of the ways that she fits more veggies into her day:

  •  "Have raw veggies for a snack with tahini or avocado. My go-to snacks are cucumber and carrot."
  •  "A smoothie a day is always going to keep the doctor away. I make one with carrot, beetroot, celery, cucumber, spinach, and a bit of lemon and ginger. Beetroot is so sweet in a smoothie! And you can buy a little blender to keep at home, it doesn't have to be expensive."
  •  "I love to make a big salad for my family - they would normally never touch a salad. But it can taste amazing if you put the right dressing, or a better quality cheese, or nuts and goji berries - that makes it taste so good."
  •  Lunch and dinner are always where I get my majority of veggies in. I normally make too much for dinner - which means I've got a tupperware ready for lunch the next day."

"I don't know how many vegetables I'm supposed to be eating every day"

Amy explains...

One serve of vegetables = 75g

This equals...

- One cup of cooked vegetables OR

- Two cups of leafy veggies OR

- Half a cup of legumes (yes they count!) OR

- One small potato (they count too!) OR

- One carrot (or similar vegetable).

One serve of fruit = 150g

This equals...

- One medium piece of fruit (pear, apple, banana, orange) OR

- Two small pieces of fruit (apricots, kiwis, mandarins, plums) OR

- 1 cup of grapes of berries.

So if, on an average day, you were to consume 2 kiwi fruits, one apple, one carrot, one small potato, two cups of leafy salad and one cup of steamed corn and peas, you'd reach your goal of five fruit and veg.

Here are some visual examples of what a day's serve of fruit and vegetables might look like:

"But that still seems like a lot," I hear you say. "And it's kind of hard to keep track of."

Here's where Kirsty has come up with a super-simple trick for her clients to follow when it comes to vegetables...

"Here's how I like to look at it. When it comes to fruit, I have my two serves per day and I'm set. But when it comes to vegetables, they're completely unlimited. The more you can get, the better.

Find some vegetables that you enjoy, that you want to eat, and go for your life. Get as many in as you can. Just eat good food, and do it often."

Amen to that.

How much fruit and veg do you eat per day?

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