Every week it seems like there’s a new diet we should all be following. I first became aware of this a few years ago with the explosion of the Atkins diet. Now there’s so many diets to choose from – the Cambridge, paleo, 5:2, cabbage soup, grapefruit, the master cleanse – it’s hard to know where to start and what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating.
A healthy, balanced diet is essential to good physical and mental health. We are all different when it comes to what we like and don’t like to eat, intolerances, allergies and budgets, so one strict diet won’t be suitable for everyone. However, increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat is good for all of us and can help us feel and function better.
How many fruit and vegetables do you eat each day?
In the UK, it’s recommended that we eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. In Australia, it’s 7 portions (5 vegetables and 2 fruit), whereas in the United States, the recommended amount is 2 servings of fruit and 3 of vegetables.
Whatever, the recommended daily intake, we appear to be struggling to meet it:
- In the UK, just 29% of adults eat their 5 a day
- In Australia, just 7% of the population eat 7 portions of vegetables each day and nearly half had 2 or more portions of fruit
- In the US, only 1 in 10 adults eat enough fruit and vegetables each day
With all these facts and figures in mind, this week’s post and activity focuses on a simple way to get more fruit and vegetables into our diets – by making our meals as colourful as possible. The more colours we eat, the greater the potential benefits to our health and wellbeing.
The mental benefits of fruit and vegetables
We now have access to a whole range of fruit and vegetables that spans the colours of the rainbow. Each colour group contains vitamins, fibre and nutrients that contribute to good physical and mental health regardless of whether they are fresh, canned, frozen, juiced or dried. Here are three good reasons to get more of these foods into our diets:
- Increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables can increase our psychological wellbeing. Two large scale studies from the UK and Australia found that people who ate more fruit and vegetables were more likely to report feeling happy, improved wellbeing and feeling satisfied with life.
- If we eat 2 extra portions of fruit or vegetables a day, our motivation may increase. By increasing our intake of fruit and vegetables just a little, we can have more energy and motivation to take on the day.
- Our mood can improve. Increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat can reduce the likelihood of experiencing anxiety and depression. This may have something to do with the amount of vitamin C in fruit and vegetables. Those of us who consume lots of vitamin C every day are less stressed in the face of psychological challenges.
A rainbow of opportunities
We’re now aware of the benefits eating more fruit and vegetables can have for our wellbeing, but how can we get more of them into our diet? After all, the textures and flavours of these foods don’t taste good to all of us.
This week’s task aims to increase our fruit and vegetable intake in a simple way – by eating meals with at least 3 colours in them. Eating rainbow meals (as I like to call them) is an easy way to remember to put more fruit and vegetables into your diet. The table below shows the different coloured fruit and vegetables so you can figure out which ones you like of each colour and start introducing more of them into your meals.
Here’s some suggestions to get you started:
- Breakfast – porridge with bananas, raspberries and raisins
- Lunch – baked sweet potato with spinach, tomatoes and sweetcorn
- Dinner – chilli con carne with red peppers, kale and kidney beans
The rainbow of fruit and vegetables and questions to help you plan your meals are available on the worksheet below. Click the link to download the worksheet. You can fill it in using the ‘fill and sign’ tool or alternatively print it off and fill it in by hand.
If you’d like to share how you got on with this activity, or the impact birthdays have on your wellbeing, please do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org