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Image by Annie Spratt


Food Fabulous

Notes from midlife

30 sneaky ways to increase your fruit + veg

It can be a challenge to eat five portions of fruit and veg each day even when you like vegetables. And now a new report suggests that eating 10 portions is what we need to stay healthy for longer. Most people don’t come nearly close to having enough, and I bet you’re wondering how the hell you’re going to manage that. I’m going to show you how. Read on for tips on getting more of the good stuff into your life in a super-easy way.


A portion means 80g (3oz) of fruit or veg - the equivalent of a small banana, a pear or three heaped tablespoons of spinach or peas.


Green veg (eg spinach, kale, broccoli)

Yellow/ orange veg (eg peppers, butternut squash)

Cruciferous vegetables (eg cauliflower, broccoli)




Citrus fruits


Green leafy vegetables (eg Romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, rocket)

Cruciferous veg (eg cauliflower, broccoli)


1) Make a frittata

Perfect for a simple lunch or a lazy weekend brunch, whisk up eggs with veggies like onions, mushrooms and peppers – or anything else you have in the fridge. If you can make this a large, deep, Spanish-style omelette, it will even last you into the week. So that’s your work lunch sorted when served with a side salad.

2) Make friends with cauliflower rice

Cauli rice has a bit of a cult thing of late. You can buy it ready-made in practically any supermarket, but it is also very easy to whizz up yourself in a food processor. Simply chop into florets and pulse until the cauliflower is a fine, rice-like consistency. Perfect whenever you might have rice or as a veggie side dish. There are many different ways to cook it.

3) Do the same with broccoli

Broccoli rice is the lesser-known brother of cauliflower rice. You prepare it in the exact same way – pulse into rice-sized pieces. You can cook it in a similar fashion, too, but it is good lightly fried with a little coconut oil. Whether cauliflower or broccoli rice, you can add the cooked version to scrambled eggs for (at least) an entire serving of your veg quota.

4) Pimp up your porridge

You might be used to a sweet porridge but a savoury version can be surprisingly good. Try cooking plain oats with water then adding sautéed veg or else grated courgette. Top with a poached egg for a protein hit and maybe a grating of parmesan, then season to taste. Try it, I implore you.

5) Add pumpkin to pancakes or waffles

Waffles and pancakes don’t have to be naughty to be nice. Add some pureed pumpkin to your traditional mix or try this recipe for waffles: combine 120g buckwheat flour with 1 tbsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp ginger, ¼ tsp allspice, ¼ tso nutmeg, ½ tsp cinnamon. Whisk in half a tin of pureed pumpkin (in the global foods section of most supermarkets), 1tsp vanilla extact, 2tbsp flaxseeds, 2tbsp maple syrup, and 240ml milk of your choice. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Heat up the waffle iron or get the skillet on the hob to heat up. Coat the pan or iron with coconut oil, tip in the mix and cook until it bubbles (skillet only) before flipping onto the other side. Perfect served with mashed avocado, smoked salmon and a poached egg.

6) Sneak into family favourites

Pasta bakes are the perfect place to hide your vegetables. The ideal partners to throw into the mix are spinach, tomatoes, peas and broccoli but almost anything will do.

7) Have a breakfast smoothie

There are so, so many different ways to get fruit and vegetables into a delicious smoothie. Here are a couple of my favourites:

Chai smoothie (serves 2): 450g spinach (or 1 and 1 of spinach and kale), 475ml almond milk, thumb-sized piece of ginger, 2 pears (cored), 1 banana, 1tsp cardamom, 1tsp cinnamon

Cherry delight: 450g spinach, 270ml water, 1 banana, 100g blueberries, 225g cherries (buy frozen – cheaper and they come pitted).

8) Don’t forget your herbs

These count as vegetables, too, and are easily incorporated into practically any dish, from soups and stews to scrambled eggs.

9) Experiment with courgetti and boodles

You can get courgetti and boodles (butternut squash noodles) from most supermarkets or make your own with a spiralizer. Blanch for a minute or two then serve with Bolognese or Thai curries – or your own choice of meal.

10) Upgrade your potato options

Sweet potatoes have a far greater nutritional value than standard white potatoes. If switching to sweet potato mash is initially too much of a stretch, consider mixing the two to start.

11) Swap wraps for lettuce

It might not cut it with the kids, but lettuce makes a surprisingly good stand-in for tortilla wraps when you’re serving up fajitas. As you get more adventurous, you can also use tougher greens like kale or chard, but you’ll want to blanch and pat dry before you wrap.

12) Sneaky additions

Casseroles, Bolognese sauce or chilli is the ideal place to smuggle in added veg. Vegetable dodgers will barely notice if you grate carrot or courgette, or finely mince mushrooms (which have a surprisingly meaty texture). The texture is barely changed. And therein lies the magic.

13) Serve vegie tomato sauce

Making you own tomato sauce is far healthier than shop-bough varieties. Grate in carrot and finely chop peppers then add to pasata or tinned tomatoes with fresh herbs like basil or oregano and whiz when done. Roasted butternut squash will also do the trick. No one will ever know the difference.

14) Try avocado and baked egg

Did you try this already? You won’t believe how good it tastes. Heat the oven to 220˚C. Halve an avocado and remove the stone to create a pit for the egg. Put the avocado in a small ceramic baking dish or baking tray. Crack the egg into the hole, sprinkle with paprika then bake for 15-20 minutes. Season, et voila.

15) Dish up veggie fries

Sometimes you need something resembling a chip. Just because you do. Check out this link for some amazingly easy and delicious ways to serve veggies you will never have thought of before –

16) Try kale crisps

You might have tasted the kind you get in bags from some supermarkets. Or maybe not. Here’s a recipe you will make time and time again. Preheat the oven to 150˚C. Blend 75g cashew nuts , 1 shallot (chopped) , 2tbsp nutritional yeast flakes, ½ tsp garlic salt, 4 soft large dates (chopped), 2tbsp lemon juice, 2tbsp water, 2tbsp apple cider vinegar together until you create a thick paste. Add a little more water if you need to. Put a 250g bag of kale in a bowl, add the sauce and massage together with your hands. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes. Turn the kale over and bake for a further 5 minutes. Cool. The crisps will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.

17) Rethink pizza

Not tried cauliflower pizza? You might like it so give it a whirl sometime soon. Here’s a recipe I love from the delightful Hemsley sisters Another great veg idea for the humble pizza is to spread a layer of pureed spinach on the dough before adding your tomato sauce. Sneaky, right?

18) Bake them in bread

Veggies are marvellous when used in baking. Seriously. Courgettes, in particular, seem to do the job above others. Try this brilliant recipe

19) The same goes for cake

Carrots. In cake. I rest my point. Enjoy.

20) And beetroot, too

Beetroot blends totally, utterly and seamlessly into chocolate cake. You have to make it to believe it, and I promise you, the kids will be fooled so resist the temptation to smugly tell them afterwards what is in it. This is one of my favourites

21) Put avos in your pudding

A brilliant dinner party treat is an avocado chocolate pudding. You’ll feel a certain holiness as you reveal to your guests what the secret ingredient is. I guarantee they’ll want to make this at home themselves. Try this one on for size

22) Don’t forget the snacks

Good old veg makes for brilliant snacks. Hummus and crudities? Come on in. Baby carrots, radishes and sugar snap peas don’t even need any chopping #noexcuses.

23) Squeeze in an extra portion where you can

If you’ve been trained to think of dinner as protein, starch and one veg, challenge yourself to improve your life with the addition of one additional vegetable. Whatever you are making, think ‘how can I add another vegetable to this?’

24) Big up the humble apple

Apple sauce has amazing magic properties for the gut. Yes, an apple a day really might keep the doctor away. Apples are high in fibre and can help lower inflammation. Take 1.3kg apples (peeled and cored) and cut into 2cm cubes. Pop in a pan and heat on a medium-high heat until they break down. Reduce the heat when they boil, and simmer for 20 minutes until softened, stirring often. Puree and use on porridge for a tasty start to your morning.

25) Bring in the berries

Berries of any kind are choc-full of inflammation-fighting antioxidants. Add them to granola, muesli or porridge along with a sprinkle of flax for a nutrition boost.

26) Carry handbag snacks

Apples, pears and satsumas are perfect travelling companions and teamed with a small handful of nuts, make the perfect blood sugar balancing snack.

27) Combine fruit and veg in a juice

A green juice is the perfect way to start the day as you mean to go on. This one will get you off the blocks with a good few servings of your 10 a day

28) Give the kids a rainbow

Getting children to eat more than a very narrow spectrum of fruit can be a challenge. The trick is in making the experience exciting. Here’s an easy and eye-catching way to do just that (and they’re just the job for grown-up buffet parties, too)

29) Make fruity lollies

When the summer starts to peep through the clouds. I love these healthy ice lollies made with berries and coconut milk, courtesy of The Medicinal Chef

30) Serve the best ice cream

Making your own ice cream is enormously satisfying – the more so the healthier but tastier it is. This coconut-based dessert is perfect even for vegans and I urge you to try it


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