Part 2: 10 a Day to work, rest and play - Level Up Nutrition
Brighton based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
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Part 2: 10 a Day to work, rest and play

Part 2: 10 a Day to work, rest and play

So, did anyone manage to get more veggies into their meals this week? My 10 a day for 7 days challenge on a ‘normal’ working week didn’t go quite a smoothly as expected – but that’s just real life; not shiny, perfect insta-food blogger life.

 

Meal Planning

Meal planning takes about 20 minutes but saves so much time. It can also mean saving loads of pennies – anyone found a healthy, reasonably priced lunch in Brighton city centre – or out and about on the outskirts then let me know.

This week was no different, just a focus on wedging in more veg, right?

Well – as with all meal plans, I always advise clients to have a back-up. I ended up unwell at home for a couple of days – and then 3 evening meals became 3 impromptu beach BBQs (bank holiday feels). So, long story short – the meal plan wasn’t exactly followed… it did mean that I have loads of veg I’ve just roasted for the next week though.

7 Days

Day 1 went less well than expected, I managed 8 portions no problem though, veggies as snacks are a winner. Day 2 became a challenge to fit in as many veg snacks as I could to pass muster and by day 5 my ‘how do I cook this massive mushroom on a teeny beach BBQ and not p*ss off the burger chefs’ skills were in full swing. I’m quite happy with reaching 10 a day on 5 out of 7 days – 2 of them were above 10 a day so actually, on balance, that’s just fine.

Magic green unicorn fart powder

One thing that is becoming more clear the more research is done is that as with most foods, it’s the whole fruit / veg that has the most healthy properties. Extracting these to ‘powdered greens’, vitamin juices / waters or tablets doesn’t appear to be a great way to get the benefits – something that’s being recognised more and more in research into gut health and our microbiome.

A word on fruit

Fruit often gets a bad rep in the world of nutri-nonsense but although it does contain more sugar than it’s veggie counterpart – fruit is just fine. Most fruits have a low glycaemic load and have lots of nutritional benefits that far outweigh any issues arising from the sugars in them for most people.

The same can’t be said for tinned fruit in syrup, fruit juice / shop-bought smoothies or dried fruit – they can contain a lot of concentrated sugar that’s not great for our teeth and unlike fresh fruit, they’re very easy to eat in large amounts. Bag of dried mango anyone?

 
Juices and smoothies A portion of fruit or veg is approximately 80g, that’s about a handful of fruit or veg, two tablespoons of chooped broccoli or 30g dried fruit (as that’s about 80 weight when rehydrated). Smoothies and juices, however will only ever count as one portion – this is due to their high sugar content, having been removed from the plant cell walls during processing. So if you have a smoothie for breakfast, and two glassed of orange juice, this only counts as one portion. Sorry, smoothie fans.

 

As with all things nutrition, with fruit it’s best to…

Mix it up

One thing I learned from looking over my food diary for the week was that I relied a lot on the same fruits, it’s sheer convenience but I’m going to make a concerted effort to get more colours in there – eat the rainbow and that.

What if I’m still not eating my 5 a day – am I doomed?

Nope, don’t worry – but if you do want to do one thing that will undoubtedly have a great impact on your health – why not try some different ways to increase the amount of fruit or veg you’re eating.

Nutrition isn’t black and white, there’s no one size fits all and there’s no set prescription for 10 a day that will cure us all of our ills. We are all very different creatures and what the studies I mentioned last week and other research shows is that with our current low intake of fruit or veg, any increase in the amount that we’re eating at all should have a positive effect (well, unless you eat mouldy or unwashed veg…)

 

How to do it: Tried and tested ideas for packing in more plants

Breakfast: 

Most people don’t change their brekkie that often – but why not try bircher muesli (overnight oats) with fresh or frozen fruit chucked in when you’re short on time. You can make up a 3 day batch and takeout what you ened in the morning. You can also use up your old jars to store your muesli in for a brekkie on the go… #sustainability

Try adding cherry tomatoes, peppers, olives.. Spinach – there’s loads of combos –  to your eggs. Frozen chopped spinach is a fab time saver.  

Mix it up with pancakes and berries or grilled bananas at the weekend.

Working Lunches

We’re not just talking soggy salads, you can use lots of tasty fresh veg or roast a batch of veg at the start of the week and have with your next 3 lunches.

Try aubergine, butternut squash, broccoli, beetroot, sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, fennel – mix it up and try out some new spices on them. Add them to whatever you fancy, roast chicken, salmon (you can buy pre-cooked ones to save time if you like), tinned fish, tofu, butterbeans…any beans.  

Snacks

Carrot sticks, ‘portable fruit’ – apples, bananas, tangerines, cherry tomatoes. Tinned fruit (in juice) or frozen with natural yoghurt is a great snack or post-lunch pud.

Evening meals / leftover lunches:

BBC good food has lots of great recipes that you can download for free, I also love Jack Monroe – her chickpea and peach curry (don’t pull that face, just try it) is a staple and you can add loads more veg to it. A new firm favourite is one from a well-thumbed Ottolenghi cookbook, I’ve adapted it a bit over the months and my version is below: 

Honeyed sweet potato with chickpeas and spinach (adapted from Ottolenghi):

Serves 4-6 (also makes an amazing lunch the next day if not feeding 4-6 people)

Chickpea sauce

  • 400g tin chickpeas
  • 1 onion – chopped
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 100g spinach leaves (or use frozen)
  • Coriander leaves to garnish
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Honeyed sweet potato

  • 500g sweet potatoes, peel and cut into slices ~2.5 cm
  • 700ml water
  • 25g unsalted butter – or oil of your choice
  • 2 tbsp honey

Yoghurt sauce

  • 100g natural yoghurt (fat free if you like)
  • 1 fat garlic clove or two smaller ones
  • Zest & juice of ½  lemon, (or 3 tsps lemon juice)
  • Juice of ½ lime (or 3 tsps lime juice)
  • Tsp chopped or fresh coriander (or tsp coriander paste)

 

Method:

  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas
  • Using a wide saucepan, melt butter and honey over a medium heat, taking care not to burn it
  • Add sweet potato, stir until covered in honey and butter
  • Add water to pan, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes; until the potatoes are tender and there isn’t much liquid left
  • Turn them over halfway if you like to ensure an even colour
  • While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the chickpea sauce
  • Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the onion, fry for ~ 8 minutes – until golden brown.
  • Add tinned tomatoes and garam masala and continue cooking for about 10 mins over a medium heat
  • Taste and season as you wish with salt and pepper
  • Stir in spinach (fresh or frozen) and add the chickpeas
  • Mix and cook for a further 5 minutes (10 if using frozen spinach)
  • Mix all the yoghurt sauce together, taste and season with salt and pepper if you wish

 

To serve, spoon chickpeas into a bowl, arrange sweet potatoes on top and drizzle over yoghurt sauce. Garnish with the coriander leaves. Portion up the leftovers (if you have any left) for lunch for tomorrow.

 

I added cod (roasted in paper parcels) and preserved lemon to this one. Please forgive my shoddy food photography though ..it was late and I don’t have a lighting set-up. Trust me on the taste!

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