Guest Post by Sally Marchini, Dietitian
We’re all so busy these days. How on Earth are we meant to able to consider our health and getting enough fruit and vegetables (our 2&5) into the meals we eat?
Often I see clients who, when I take their diet histories, they don’t even start to consider foods like fruit and vegetables until so late in the day that it’s actually too late to get enough of those important plant nutrients. Or when they’re doing it they find them so unappealing that there’s no incentive to make them want to eat more.
In this blog I hope to help you find it easier to get them all in and enjoy them, which in turn will help you to improve your own wellbeing, diabetes health, mental health, heart health and so much more!
The Australian Dietary Guidelines tells us:
“There are many nutritional, societal, culinary and environmental reasons to ensure that vegetables, including legumes/beans, and fruit are a major component of Australian dietary patterns. These foods are nutrient dense, relatively low in energy (kilojoules) and are good sources of minerals and vitamins (such as magnesium, vitamin C and folate), dietary fibre and a range of phytochemicals including carotenoids. Many of the sub-components of foods and their relationships have not been studied in detail, and it is expected that other sub-components – and their biological effects – are still to be discovered.”
From a diabetes point of view, they’ll help improve our immune system, mental health, good cholesterol, bowel health and help with weight management (just to name a few benefits!).
Perhaps a good start would be to look at ideas to include them in your meals across the day, and then provide you with some easy recipes – some of my personal favourites, and I encourage you to share your personal favourites below too in case they inspire someone else to enjoy more of these wonderful foods.
A good starting point is to know what the guideline is and how much a serve is. One of my best tips is to break up the intake of these foods across the day so that you’re not left with large amounts required at the end. Personally I aim to get 2-3 serves of vegetables at lunchtime and another 2-3 for dinner, and I one of my fruit serves at breakfast and one as a snack later in the day. But there are no rules about this. Here are some ideas that might help you.
Weekday breakfasts usually need to be fast to prepare and eat. So a bowl of high fibre cereal with a serve of fruit is one easy way to get you off to a good start. Think bananas, strawberries, blueberries. A milk based smoothie also works well here, as does multigrain toast with peanut butter and a squashed banana.
On weekends with a little more time, why not wilt some baby spinach leaves and pan fry mushrooms and tomato, served on toast with an egg. Remembering that one medium sized tomato equals a serve, and half a cup of cooked veg (the mushrooms and wilted spinach) is another serve, you’re off to a great start with two vegetable serves already under your belt.
I love lunchtimes in my office. I take the various ingredients to build my favourite salad and set aside an hour to build and eat it while I check my email and Facebook. My salads include mixed leaves, baby tomatoes (various colours if they’re available), Lebanese cucumber, onion, half a cup of 4 bean mix and a quarter of an avocado. That gives me around 3 vegetable serves and I salivate over every mouthful.
Of course leftover are also a top idea for lunch, especially ones high in vegetable ingredient, and can be served with baby spinach leaves to lift them.
And if you’re in a massive hurry and can only have time to make a sandwich, pile on the salad and take some extra veg in a box to nibble on with your sandwich. I just adore the flavour in the grape or Perino tomatoes, and cooked and cooled asparagus (in season at the moment) are such a treat flavour wise – I even enjoy it raw!
A good place to start here is to remember the plate model, in that half your plate should be non-starchy veg or salad. I’ll provide ideas below on some yummy ways you can make this happen. It is definitely the easiest meal to get those extra serves in, so 2-3 shouldn’t be a challenge at all.
Of course a piece of fruit is an excellent snack, remembering you’re aiming for 2 per day, so if you’ve had one with your breakfast you only need one later in the day too. For us with diabetes they’re better off eaten at separate times to keep our BGLs more stable.
Five easy ideas to enjoy your vegetables
- Simply steamed or microwaved to an ‘al-dente’ texture (ie not overcooked) mixed vegetables of your choice such as broccoli, zucchini, green beans and peas. Dress with the juice of a lemon, a finely chopped clove of garlic, extra virgin olive oil (equal amount to the lemon juice) and salt and pepper to taste. Delicious!
- Start with a tin of tomatoes and add flavours such as garlic, anchovies and chilli. Then just add your choice of veggies and simmer in the sauce for 5 minutes or until they’re an al-dente texture (not overcooked). Tasty!
- Take a bowl and add a huge variety of vegetables such as mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, capsicum, zucchini, pumpkin, beans, whole garlic cloves, onion and toss them in some extra virgin olive oil with fresh or dried oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Tip them into a baking tray lined with baking paper (for easy washing up) and roast at 180 degrees Celsius for about 30 mins. Also wonderful with crumbled feta cheese tossed through at the end, and delicious cold the next day for leftover lunches!
- Soups and stews are such an obvious choice for those who find it hard to enjoy their veggies as all you need to do is add a whole load of mixed veggies into a large pot, cover with stock, simmer for 20-30 minutes and blend with your desired flavourings. How easy is that?!
- Last but not least, if you have left over steamed vegetables it’s so easy to reinvigorate them by adding them into a mix of a few beaten eggs and some cheese and a few extra fresh herbs, baked for 30 mins at 180 degrees to make a frittata that will ‘Wow’ your guests. Also fabulous for next day lunches to help get your vegetable serves in. Yummo!
Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.