The road to healthy living is paved with good intentions: getting more sleep; exercising regularly; drinking more water, and consuming the all-important five portions of fruit and veg every day. There are some lucky people who have no problems getting their five-a-day. And despite the fact that I love fruits and veggies and have no aversion to them, I also love chocolate, cakes, pastries and anything sugary and stodgy, and more often than not, that’s what I opt for – especially when I need to dash. It seems such a mission to remember to eat healthily with my fast-track lifestyle where I’m always on the move.
I’ve convinced myself many a time that the jam tart I’m scoffing is actually quite healthy because it contains jam which is made from, er, fruit; that coffee and chocolate are good for you because they are made from beans; chips are made from potatoes which is a vegetable so all good in the hood there, and sugar comes from a plant – need I say more! But seriously, who am I trying to kid?
SO WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION?
There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes a single serving of fruit or vegetables but it’s widely believed to be around 80g. The following are examples of single servings:
- 1 150ml glass of pure fruit juice
- 1 thick slice of pineapple or melon
- 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans
- 1 apple, pear, orange, banana or other similar sized fruit
- 2 plums or kiwi fruit
- 1⁄2 a grapefruit
- 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
- 1/2 an avocado
- 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
- 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
- 3 heaped tablespoons of stewed fruit
- 3 dried apricots
- 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
- 1 small bowl of salad
With the exception of potatoes, which are very starchy and aren’t included in the recommended five a day, all other fruit and vegetables count, whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, or pure juices.
But it’s worth remembering that no matter how much pure, freshly-squeezed juice you drink, it still only counts as one portion owing to certain nutrients being depleted in the juicing process. And because they don’t contain the same vitamins and minerals as other fruit and veg, kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and other pulses also only count as one portion, no matter how much you eat. Therefore in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, it’s advisable to munch on five different types of fruit and veg each day. It’s also worth noting that when people talk about getting their five-a-day, that’s just the minimum amount that we should be consuming every day. Ideally we should be aiming for about seven servings but goodness – it’s sometimes hard enough just getting the five so we’ll concentrate on that for now!
To be honest, it’s not actually hard to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and veg. It’s just that we all live such busy lives these days and we’ve fallen into a pattern of bad eating habits. An ideal healthy eating day for me would see me start with chopped mango and pineapple with yogurt for breakfast; an oaty, apricot flapjack for mid-morning; prawn salad for lunch; a snack of fruit salad; and salmon with spinach, asparagus, broccoli and potatoes for dinner. What could be simpler?
I was thinking of ways in which you could effortlessly get the recommended five-a-day where it seems as though you’re not even thinking about it so it doesn’t seem such a drag. Many of the ideas below are things that I’ve tried or that appeal to me, and appear to be effective and not at all unrealistic ways of getting more fruit and veg into your diet. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change your eating habits overnight, and lifestyle changes always seem a bit daunting but you’ll gradually be able to work your way up to incorporating more fruit and veg into your diet – and once you know how easy it is, you’ll be unstoppable!
USE REAL FRUIT INSTEAD OF ARTIFICIAL SYRUPS IN DRINKS
I always feel really disappointed when I call into a coffee shop, order a fruity iced drink, smoothie or milkshake – and find them pouring sickly-sweet, synthetic-tasting syrup into the glass instead of blending real fruit.
Well you can’t control what your local coffee shop uses, but you can make delicious cold drinks at home using real fruit. It may take a little more effort than opening a bottle but it’s so worth it!
2. GET SPIRALIZING!
Spiralizing has caught on in a big way where vegetables such as carrots and courgettes are cut into thin, spaghetti-like strands using a spiralizer before being blanched and added to salads or eaten in place of pasta with pesto or tomato-based sauces.
3. CAULIFLOWER ‘RICE’ ISN’T JUST FOR THOSE DOING ATKINS!
When I first heard about cauliflower ‘rice’, it was something that Atkins dieters were making as a substitute to rice, where they would pulse cauliflower florets to resemble rice grains.
I don’t really think it tastes like rice but I do think it’s really delicious. It tastes a lot like the fried cauliflower my mum used to make. It might sound quite bland but with seasoning, herbs, spices, a little chopped onion or crushed garlic, and a lot of imagination it can be very tasty. You can even add egg to it to make egg cauliflower fried ‘rice’!
4. SNACK ON DRIED FRUIT AND FROZEN BERRIES INSTEAD OF SWEETS
I do love my sweet, sugary treats but thankfully I also love dried and frozen fruit and it’s a healthier way to get my fix of something sweet.
5. ICE ICE BABY
Blend yogurt, and honey with your favourite fruit, pop into ice-lolly moulds and you’ll have a delicious, frozen sweet treat that takes next to no time to prepare.
6. GO BANANAS!
Bananas are so versatile and contain a lot of potassium which is great when you need an energy boost -something many of my colleagues know only too well as they’re always bringing bananas to work to snack on. There’s so much you can do with them. You can have them on toast, or blended into a milkshake or smoothies for breakfast; coat them in chocolate and freeze them as an alternative to ice-lollies; mash them into pancake, muffin or cake batter; bake or barbecue them and serve them with ice-cream… the list goes on!
7. DREAM TOPPING
Purée some berries with honey and pour over ice-cream as a healthy alternative to sugar-laden ice-cream toppings.
I don’t know many people who don’t own a juicer – but I know many juicer owners who don’t use them. This is a real shame because fresh, pure juice is so good for you. And of course with a vast array of fruit and veggies available, you can have fun trying to come up with unique flavour combinations.
9. SWAP POTATO CHIPS FOR APPLE CRISPS
Slice an apple (or pear) very thinly; place on a baking sheet; place in the oven at a low temperature, and bake until crispy, turning over occasionally.
10. BLEND VEG INTO SHOP BOUGHT FOOD
There are times when we don’t have time to make things from scratch – no matter how much we want to. But you can always add veggies to shop-bought stews or blend vegetables into shop-bought soups. My grandfather always liked adding mushrooms to frozen pizzas while I tend to add sautéed onion, garlic and mushrooms to shop-bought pasta sauces – something Mr.D. is not happy about!
11. MAKE VEGGIE DESSERTS!
It started with carrot cake but now there seems to be a trend for adding vegetables such as beetroot, sweetcorn, pumpkin and courgette to baked goodies and desserts – and it seems to be going down a storm. It’s great because you can enjoy the sweet treats you love so much AND get the necessary nutrients. So you get the both of best worlds!
12. CHIPS AND DIPS
Ever since I discovered that I can make dips and salsas that taste better than the shop-bought stuff and that they’re so quick and simple to make, I’ve been making delicious guacamoles and spicy salsas to serve with tortilla chips when I want to snack on something in front of the telly. Not only do they taste great but I feel so much healthier.
13. FEEL THE PULSE IN A CAN!
These are a great cupboard stand-by and a good source of fibre. A serving (three tablespoons) of canned beans or lentils can be added to soups, stews, salads etc. And let’s face it – how much effort goes into opening a can?
14. LIVEN UP THAT SALAD
Gone are the days of boring lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads. Today we have a fantastic array of fruits and vegetables available – not to mention awesome dressings – which will change the way you look at salads forever and let’s face it – how hard is it to prepare a salad? My favourite is prawn with mango and avocado with a chilli, lime and coriander dressing. I’d eat it every day if I could!
15. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO WITH AN AVOCADO???
When I was a kid, there was only one way in which people used to eat avocados and that was halved with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nowadays the humble avocado has come a long way since then, and like the banana, it’s quite versatile, and is even making an appearance in sweet dishes. Salads don’t seem the same without them, and you can add avocados to dips, salsas, smoothies, milkshakes, desserts and is also used as a substitute for butter or cream in cakes and mousses. I even saw a contestant on Come Dine With Me baking them – something I didn’t know you could do with avocados.
Travel and food are two things I love. And one of the things I love about travelling is sampling all the local delicacies. So it’s no wonder that I’m addicted to a TV cooking show that combines my two favourite things. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of cooking shows but World Kitchen hosted by Nici Wickes is refreshingly different. Not only does Nici whip up interesting and exciting dishes from around the world – and make it look so easy – but she takes viewers on a culinary adventure as she heads off around the world, visiting fantastic places and learning about the local cuisine. Nici then heads home where she recreates many of the dishes that she’s learned to make from the comfort of her own kitchen. Each episode usually sees her rustling up one main and one dessert from the country she’s just visited.
The New Zealand-born chef is an absolute joy to watch with her sunny personality, mile wide smile, abundant energy, and her enthusiasm for cooking just shines through. But Nici is not just a pretty face, and neither is she just another TV chef. As well as being a seasoned traveller, Nici is also a cookery writer, business woman, actress, motivational speaker, owner of a cooking school, business coach and runs workshops in leadership! Wow – does this lady ever sleep???
Nici has a multitude of fantastic recipes but I chose to include the dishes she made after her visit to Trinidad. I love the awesome flavours of Caribbean cooking, and I was famished just watching Nici cook these! But for more amazing recipes check them out here. And tune into World Kitchen if you can.
TRINIDADIAN CHICKEN CURRY
A delicious fusion of Indian and Caribbean flavours, this curry is perfect for those who prefer a milder, yet flavoursome, curry.
1 green capsicum, de-seeded and chopped roughly
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 bunch of fresh coriander (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
¼ – ½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
3 Chicken Breasts – skin on, cubed
1 cup green sauce (recipe below)
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1-2 teaspoons garam masala
½ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 fresh mango, skinned and cut into 2cm cubes
Steamed rice and store bought roti
- Blend all ingredients for the green seasoning in a blender or food processor.
- In a bowl, marinate the chicken in the green seasoning.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium-sized, heavy based saucepan.
- Add the onion and sauté until soft then add the spices (cumin, turmeric, garam masala) and fry for 2-3 minutes until aromatic.
- Add the chicken and green seasoning and stir until coated in the spice mix and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Finally add the coconut milk, mustard (if using), salt and pepper.
- Gently stir in the mango and heat through.
- Serve with rice and roti.
CARIBBEAN BLACK CAKES
This is one of my favourite cakes. One of the things I like about this cake is that the dried fruits are blended so you get the flavour but not the appearance. This is great for me because although I love which I’m not that keen on! This cake is usually served during special occasions in the Caribbean. Good reason to make every day a special occasion!
2 cups mix of raisins & currants
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup rum
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons aromatic bitters flavouring
150g unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons lime or lemon zest
Prepare the fruit: Place the raisins, currant and prunes in a large bowl, pour in rum, warm water and bitters.
- Leave for the fruit to soak up the liquor while you make the batter.
- Preheat oven to 150 C.
- Grease a 12 hole deep muffin tin.
- Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing well to incorporate.
- Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, mixed spice and nutmeg), golden syrup, vanilla essence and lime zest.
- Mix gradually into the creamed mixture to form a batter.
- Set aside.
- In a food processor, pour the soaked fruit and juices and blend until thick and still a bit chunky.
- Now add the fruit puree to the batter and fold in until well mixed.
- Spoon batter into greased muffin tins.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
- Serve warm with sour cream sweetened with brown sugar.