Cutlery next to vegetables

First of all: What is a ‘portion’?

As a general guide:

  • a portion of fruit or vegetables is 80g
  • for dried fruit, one portion is 30g
  • a portion of fruit juice is 150ml (no matter how many additional glasses of juice you drink in a day, it is still only one portion)

Fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables count.

What this may look like

An 80g serving/single portion of fruit may be:

  • one apple, orange, peach, or medium banana
  • two kiwis, clementines, or medium plums
  • half a grapefruit, or avocado
  • 14 cherries
  • One slice of melon
  • Two slices of mango
  • One handful of grapes, or blackberries
  • Two handfuls of blueberries

A serving of typical salad ingredients may be:

  • A two-inch piece of cucumber
  • One medium tomato or seven cherry tomatoes
  • A cereal bowl full of lettuce

A portion of other vegetables can include:

  • One medium onion
  • One large parsnip
  • Three heaped tablespoons of carrots
  • Three tablespoons of mixed frozen vegetables, or peas
  • Three heaped tablespoons of beans or lentils (each count as a maximum of one portion, irrespective of how many extra you have!)

White potatoes (or their products) do not count as they are considered to be carbohydrates; sweet potatoes do count because they are lower in starch.

How to eat more vegetables

You can add vegetables to all meals , and even snacks.  Sometimes it can be done with a simple addition while for other meals it may mean changing your habits.  Here are some ideas to boost your vegetable intake besides adding a portion to your main meal:

  • Crudites: eat veg sticks as a snack – adding a homemade dip like houmous, guacamole or fava would add extra veg too!
  • Add some salad to your sandwich and/or eat it with some veg sticks or chunks of tomato
  • Choose salads, either as the main feature or as an additional side dish
  • Add vegetables to eggs in an omelette (great for using up the previous day’s leftover veg!)
  • Make a homemade vegetable-based soup
  • Make a stew and add plenty of veg
  • Mix tinned tuna with capers or sweetcorn (you are unlikely to want 80g mixed in, but it all helps!)
  • Mix onion into grated cheese (depending on how you are eating that cheese!)
  • Make a blended vegetable sauce to use with pasta and rice dishes. This one by Jamie Oliver uses seven different veg:
  • Include them in smoothies. An example of a veg-based smoothie blend is carrot, celery, ginger and apple (or orange)
  • Swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes when making jacket potatoes, chips or wedges
  • Add swede into mashed potato – great for potato topped pies
  • Add leaks to mashed potato (adding mustard to this mix can taste good too)
  • Add spring onions (or scallions) to mashed potato to make champ; add cabbage to this to make colcannon (there are a variety of recipes for both of these traditional Irish dishes available online)
  • Whenever you are cooking, think about whether you can add a vegetable to the recipe if they aren’t already included.

“Never liked” a type of vegetable?  Think about when you last tried it – how long ago was it?  How was it prepared?  May be preparing the vegetable in a different way will make it more palatable, or simply hide it in a blended soup!

How to eat more fruit

To add more fruit to your diet try:

  • Adding fruit to your preferred breakfast (or swap to a different one more suited to fruit additions!)
  • Have a 150ml glass of juice with a meal
  • Eating fresh or tinned fruit as a dessert (you could add some natural yoghurt if you don’t fancy it on its own)
  • Eating stewed or baked fruit as a warm dessert
  • Adding fruit to salads, for example pomegranate seeds, apple or orange slices
  • Make a smoothie using fresh or frozen fruit with natural yoghurt, avocados, cocoa powder and/or greens, etc – make it to your taste but don’t just use fruit as it could result in a high sugar content.
  • Enjoying a chocolate cake treat? Serve some berries on the side – strawberries or raspberries often work well.

Time savers

Preparing fresh meals can take time, especially if you have a lot of vegetables to prepare.  Therefore, look out for frozen vegetables and pre-prepared veg.  While fruit and vegetables do start to lose nutrients when they are prepared, eating some pre-prepared veg (frozen or as fresh as possible) is still a good starting place for boosting your intake (or supporting your intake on busy days).

Whenever possible, batch cook your recipes and freeze the leftovers so that you have meals ready for another day.

Take a look at Jamie Oliver’s meals in 30 minutes, and 15 minutes.  I was given the 30 minute book* as a gift, and the recipes are written step-by-step as they are in the programme – the guide for co-ordinating the whole meal, not just one part of it.  While I may need to do some ingredient swaps to make recipes veggie, I think this will certainly help me in the kitchen (my timing and co-ordination can be terrible!).  You may have noticed I am a fan of Jamie Oliver – he really seems to understand the health aspects of food, as well as the struggles and practicalities of cooking for everyday people.  My young son likes to watch for Jamie Oliver’s fun side, as well as seeing the food that ‘we’ could make.

While gadgets can be expensive buys, choosing the right ones can be a brilliant time saver rather than another ornament or cupboard-filler.  I really like my Instant Pot*.  I haven’t used it to make a wide variety of meals yet, but it is great for soup.  I admit to being a little lazy with the recipes and not sautéing onions etc before making the soup, but they still turn out OK!  An easy soup I make uses a bag of frozen, chopped stewing vegetables as the main ingredient; and at the weekend I made a runner bean and potato soup to use some of the home-grown stringy beans that have been ignored in the freezer for too long (even after blending it I had to sieve the soup to get rid of the stubborn strings).

*This is my own experience and I am not affiliated with the company producing this item in anyway, or receiving payment for this mention.


As a general guide, try to balance your main food intake over the day so it consists of:

  • One quarter leafy greens and salads
  • One quarter other non-root veg
  • One quarter root veg and wholegrains
  • One quarter protein sources.

Additions to this main intake include your fruit and oils/fats (including olive oil, butter, nuts, seeds and avocados).

(The Bant Wellness Solution: