For years the mantra has been to eat ‘5-a-day’ and what I mean by that is 5 portions in total of fruit or vegetables every day. It has been suggested this should be increased to ‘7-a-day’ and specifically 2 portions of fruit and 5 portions of vegetables to increase the health benefits. In fact, there is no maximum number of portions we should be aiming for.
We all know fruit and vegetables are good for us yet we often struggle to get our children to eat them. They may have a particular favourite and refuse any other. You reluctantly keep purchasing the ever so expensive box of blueberries only for them to be consumed in one sitting with many escaping onto the floor. A recent study led by the University of Leeds showed giving fruit and vegetables regularly under 2 years and offering new fruit/vegetable up to 5 - 10 times would help those children not keen or fussy about fruit and veg.
Fruit and vegetables can be fresh, frozen or tinned (choose tinned in natural juice). Frozen vegetables are a must for any parent as you always have vegetables to hand to add to meals. I regularly top up dishes with a handful of frozen peas or sweetcorn for good measure! Alternatively, adding vegetables such as carrot or squash to your regular mash potato is an easy way to include more. Frozen summer fruits can also make a lovely addition to ice-cream or fruit jelly.
Do be careful about fruit juice though. It contains vitamins like fresh fruit but is high in sugar and lacks the important fibre. One small glass (150ml) should be the general rule and for children diluted 6 - 10 parts with water.
So what is a portion?
A portion of fruit or veg is the amount you can fit into the palm of the hand. As your child grows, their palms and portions will increase. For example, a portion for a 3 year old would look something like this:
8 - 10 blueberries
1 small apple
1 tablespoon peas or sweetcorn
2 florets of broccoli or cauliflower
1/2 a medium carrot
I think the key is that we should all try and eat more fruit and veg and not get fixated by the need to reach a particular portion target. Set you and your child a challenge to eat one more portion and use a chart to plot your success!