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03 Jul 2022

UP YOUR GREENS – 14 ways to boost your fruit and vegetable intake

Laurann O'Reilly writing in this week's Nationalist

Six top nutrition tips for boosting your immune health with Laurann O'Reilly

Laurann O'Reilly

Whilst we know that our fruit and veggies are important for our health, many of us struggle to squeeze enough into our diets. According to a study carried out by Bord Bia, fruit and vegetable consumption is on the rise for us here in Ireland, however we’re still not meeting our recommended requirements.

Whilst we’ve heard it said that they’re good for our health, our fruit and vegetables are important sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (disease fighting compounds) that are essential for our health.

Here nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly and owner of Nutrition by Laurann guides us through some ways we can boost our fruit and veggie intake and up our greens.

1. Boost Your Breakfast: Breakfast is a great opportunity to add extra fruit and berries, not only are they nutritious but they add a natural and healthy source of sweetness too. Tip: Why not try adding strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi or other fruit combinations to your first meal of the day.

2. Smoothies: Are a great way of cramming in delicious fruits and berries into your day if you struggle to eat all your five portions. Tip: Add some probiotic yogurt for calcium and a gut supportive boost. You can also oats and chia seeds to your smoothie to increase the fibre content, which help to stabilise your blood sugar levels too.

3. Nutritious Juices: Whilst smoothies are more fruit based, we can also blend a range of veggies into nutritious juices too, to squeeze in some extra vegetable portions into our day. They’re great for on the go too and lower in sugar than smoothies. Suggestion: Why not try a combination of kale, lemon juice, ginger, cucumber, apple and celery.

4. Add Some Seasoning: Eating veggies doesn’t have to be boring as there are so many delicious herbs and spices that we can jazz them up with. Recommendations: Why not experiment with seasonings such as basil, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, paprika, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

5. Omelettes: This is such an easy and versatile way to add veggies into your diet with eggs being a great source of protein too. Tip: Here you can include some chopped meat, veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, onions and spinach as well as some cheese to boost your calcium too!

6. Salads: These are a great way to pump a range of different veggies into one dish. Tip: Why not try adding a combination of tomatoes, onions, carrots, cucumber, spinach, peppers and olives along with a good source of protein such as chopped chicken, beef, tuna or hard-boiled eggs.

7. Healthy Dressings: Lots of people hear the word ‘salad’ and think it may be a little on the plain side, but a simple salad dressing can jazz it right up for you. Tip: Add a tablespoon of balsamic or apple cider vinegar to a tablespoon of olive oil for a quick, easy and healthy salad dressing (the apple cider combination is my favourite, as a bonus it also helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels too)

8. Satisfying Soups: Homemade soups are not only hearty and delicious, but they’re also a great way of squeezing in loads of delicious vegetables into one dish. Tip: Why not make up a batch of delicious soup, which can work great for nutritious lunches. It’s also really handy for meal planning, as it can be frozen and defrosted to have a later time too.

9. Eat The Rainbow: Each different colour fruit and vegetable contains unique health components that are essential to our health. So, the wider the variety of these different colours that we consume, the wider the spectrum of nutrients we get for our body. Tip: When doing your grocery shopping aim to see the rainbow of fruit and vegetables in your shopping trolly.

10. Delicious Dips: Chopped veggies can be perfect with a healthy dip such as guacamole, low fat hummus or seasoned Greek yogurt. Not only are they great as finger food for parties but they work as a healthy snack too. Tip: Why not chop up some carrots, celery and cucumber into sticks and choose your healthy dip option.

11. One Pot Dishes: Not only are one pot or one pan dishes such as stews, casseroles and pasta bakes are a great way of incorporating loads of healthy ingredients, they’re also quick, easy and save on the washing up to. Tip: Why not get creative and see how many delicious veggies you can add. You can also check out my recipe below!

12. Add To Sauces: Adding extra vegetables to your sauces and dressings really is a great way to increase your vegetable intake, particularly if you have picky kids. Tip: When cooking sauces, such as marinara sauce (an Italian tomato-based sauce) try boosting it with a combination of herbs and vegetables such as chopped onions, carrots, peppers, peas and spinach.

13. Pesto It: Working great as sauces in sandwiches, for pasta and other tasty dishes, pesto can pack some great nutrition as well as being versatile too. Tip: Whilst pesto is typically made using basil you can also try making it with roasted beetroots for a delicious and vibrant dish.

14. Give Them Some Stuffing: Whether it’s peppers or Portobello mushrooms, stuffed veggies are not only really tasty but can work as a great starter or side dish for everyone to enjoy. Tip: Why not try chopping your peppers in half and stuffing with delicious cooked meat, beans, rice, seasonings and cheese, then pop them in the oven to bake.

Remember

- ‘Every Meal is an Opportunity To Nourish’: It can help to look at each meal from breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner and ask yourself, “what can I do to make this meal more nourishing?”. Try to have a minimum of 2 portions of fruit or vegetables with your main meals and at least one portion in your snacks

- Choose Healthy Cooking Methods: To enjoy the benefits of your vegetables without adding additional calories it’s always best to choose cooking methods which avoid excessive use of fats and oils (a little drizzle is okay of course). Tip: Opt for cooking methods such as steaming, boiling or roasting where possible.

- Avoid Overcooking: It’s always best to avoid overcooking your veggies to preserve all of those valuable vitamins and minerals. Tip: If boiling veggies why not reusing the water to make a sauce or add to your juice or smoothie, that way you can recycle the vitamins lost in cooking.

- Vegetable Portion Sizes: We may need to aim for our five portions but how much is a portion?

Here is a Food Portion Guide by SafeFood
- 1 Medium Sized Fruit: Apple, orange, pear or banana
- 2 Small Fruits: Plums, kiwis or mandarin oranges
- Small Fruits: 6 strawberries, 10 grapes or 16 raspberries
- 150ml unsweetened fruit juice
- ½ Cup Cooked Vegetables: Fresh or frozen
- 1 Bowl of Salad: Lettuce, tomato, cucumber
- 1 Bowl of Vegetable Soup: Ideally homemade or good quality shop bought


Recipe - One Pot Beef & Veggie Stew
Ingredients
2 tbsp Butter, Unsalted
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 pounds Stew meat, Or chuck roast (trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes)
3 tbsp Garlic, Finely minced
1 cup Onion, Finely chopped
4 medium Carrots, Diced
3 stalks Celery, Diced
1 Bay leaf
3 tbsp Tomato paste
1 tsp Oregano Dried
1 tsp Thyme, Dried
1 tsp Parsley, Dried
Salt, To taste
Pepper, To taste
½ tsp Paprika
4 cups Beef broth, Low sodium
2 tbsp All-purpose flour
3 medium Potatoes, Diced into 1-inch cubes
½ cup Green beans, Frozen
½ cup Peas, Frozen
2 tbsp Parsley, Fresh, Roughly chopped, For garnish
Directions
Heat butter and oil in a large non-stick pot over medium heat
Saute beef until brown on all sides
Add garlic, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaf and saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant
Add tomato paste, oregano, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper, paprika and mix everything together
Whisk together the flour and broth separately and mix that in too
Bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to simmer
Cover and cook for 1.5 hour
Then, add potatoes, green beans, peas
Cover and cook for another 30 minutes until potatoes are cooked and beef is super tender
Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy.

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