Has 5 a day become 10 a day?

New research has been released on the benefits of eating 10 serves of fruit and veges every day. Our nutrition experts share their real-life experience of the 10+ a day challenge and we share our five top tips to get 10+ a day into your day.

Buying seasonal fruit and vegetables at farmers markets can help save you money

Recent research by the Imperial College of London found incredible health results when you increase your intake of fruits and vegetables to 10 or more serves a day.

 

Benefits of 10+ a day

The study was an analysis of all worldwide research currently available, involving  2 million people.  The results reveal that eating up to 800g fruit and vegetables a day – or 10 servings – is associated with these incredible health improvements:

It estimates that approximately 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could be potentially prevented every year if people ate 10 helpings, or 800 g, of fruit and vegetables a day.

 

How many serves do New Zealanders currently eat?

The Ministry of Health recommends that New Zealand adults eat at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day.

Sadly, many New Zealanders fall well short of this mark. The latest estimates from the 2015/2016 health survey indicate that:

  • Only 62% of adults eat the recommended three or more serves of vegetables a day
  • Only 55% meet the recommend two serves of fruit a day
  • When the two recommendations are put together, only 40% of New Zealand adults eat the recommended 5 + a day

 

What is a serving?

Vegetable serving sizes

  • ½ a cup of cooked vegetables (e.g. broccoli, carrot or watercress)
  • ½ a cup of salad or mixed vegetables

Fruit serving sizes

  • One medium apple, pear, banana or orange
  •  ½ a cup of fruit salad

Alternatively, one portion of fruit and vegetables is roughly about what fits into the palm of your hand.

 

What about the sugar found in fruit?

While there has been much media hype about sugar, and in some cases that we should be limiting our fruit intake because of the sugar they contain, this is not the case. While there are naturally occurring sugars in nutritious foods like fruit, which do not have the same effect as free sugar. We encourage people to include fruit as part of a heart healthy diet.

 

Our Heart Foundation nutrition team give 10+ servings a go. 

So, with the positive news about putting even more vegetables and fruit in our daily routine, our team of nutritionists and dietitians did a trial to see if they could meet 10+ serves a day over two weeks. In line with our Healthy Heart visual food guide, the team prioritised non-starchy vegetables.

 

Dave

I found it far easier to meet the 10 serves on working days as I’m more planned and organised with what I’m eating while at work, and weekends tend to be unstructured. One weekend was particularly challenging as I was travelling and eating out a lot.

The main change was a stronger focus on salads and increasing the number of vegetable-based snacks. Lunches would tend to be a roasted vegetable salad (with lettuce greens), some protein/nuts and seeds and dressing.

Dinners involved something with a cauliflower rice or wraps (lettuce, or bread-based) and packaged Japanese slaw provided a great quick vegetable option to boost meals. For snacks I rekindled a relationship with celery but dressed it up with peanut butter or cheese. I certainly felt full on days I meet my goal and, on average, I think I hit the 10 serves a day (or slightly under).

My learning would be that it takes some structure, planning and thinking ahead and more effort on weekends to consistently hit the 10 serves a day.

Angela

Finally, a challenge where we can eat more of something rather than cutting something out! This is something that really appeals to me, as I believe that cutting things out of the diet unless medically required, can lead to developing an unhealthy relationship with food.

As long as I remembered to include some fruit and/or vegetables at each meal and as snacks, I found it relatively easy to meet my 10 a day – even when I was travelling overseas.

I chose not to resort to fruit or vegetable smoothies – while they can be an easy option for upping your intake, I preferred to experiment with different ways to incorporate whole fruit and veges into my diet. Vegetable fritters were a hit with the whole family and great for weekend lunches or taking as leftovers to work. They’re also a great way of using up any vegetables which were past their best. Raw fruit and veges also made for very easy and portable snacks, and being the tail-end of summer, salads still featured frequently with lunch and as a side with dinner.

However one setback I found was that I’d sometimes get quite full – probably due to the high fibre content – and couldn’t always get past seven or eight serves without feeling like I was over eating. I don’t usually eat something after my main meal, and if I was feeling full and satisfied after dinner, then I didn't include an additional serve of fruit or veges just to reach my goal of 10 serves. I think it's important to listen to your body's hunger and fullness cues.

One of key the positives with this challenge is that there are still clear benefits for simply eating more fruit and veges, rather than specifically reaching 10 a day. Every additional serve counts!

Branko

I didn’t find this challenge too difficult so long as, like Dave, I based my lunch and dinner choices on vegetables and was pre-prepared with vegetables and fruit on hand for snacks. I struggled a little in the last stage of the challenge when I got a head cold and didn’t feel like facing up to a lot of raw vege.

I had four meals out and about during the two weeks and it was really positive to find some tasty salad-based options at food courts and restaurants. Cost-wise I think this challenge was almost cheaper than my usual eating pattern, as I replaced some snacks and protein choices with in-season vegetables and I didn’t need to throw away any produce that was past its used by date because I didn’t eat it quickly enough.

Sarah

Any change in eating requires extra thought and planning. For me, I had to be more mindful about my weekly shop and meal-planning to ensure I was ticking off the 10+ serves per day, especially if I was going out for a meal. But it wasn’t long before I was into the swing of things – vegetable-based meals for lunch and dinner (usually a salad), fruit included with breakfast and then fruit and/or veggie-based snacks during the day.

I found that I didn’t need to make any major changes to my usual eating pattern. In fact, after a couple of days I stopped counting and felt confident that I was still meeting the goal. What I enjoyed most about this challenge is that I became more aware of sourcing local and seasonal produce, so I could buy more and keep the cost down.

Nicky

I really enjoyed including more fresh fruit and vegetables into my diet over the last few weeks.  As a rule I eat a lot anyway so it wasn’t too much of a jump up, although I did enjoy the challenge of coming up with new ways to include them into my diet.  I quite often included a side salad in addition to most meals and made extra vegetable portions with dinner so I could have them for leftovers the next day at lunch.

Weekends proved to be more difficult as we do our food shopping on a Sunday, so Saturday was lean pickings!  Not a lot of good food left in the household of five people so I substituted with frozen vegetables and berries and eating from our vegetable garden. 

On a side note, the increase in fibre did upset my tummy somewhat so I had to change the types of vegetables I was eating, brassicas (such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower)  were out of bounds by the end of the two weeks! I may have gone overboard with all the delicious seasonal stone fruit also so had to rethink my diet a little.

I think overall, eating 10 servings of vegetables a day is completely doable if you find some good recipes and practice. It didn’t work out to be more expensive as the vegetable increase cut out a lot of other foods I may usually eat…the fruit bill did increase though.  Although seasonal, stone fruits are still pricey.  If I had stuck to apples, oranges, bananas etc. it would have been much cheaper.

Qa-t-a

My experience probably went against the grain. Eating 10+ a day of non-starchy vegetables and fruit was a stretch for me, as my usual consumption of fruit and vegetables is only around 5+ (something for me to improve upon). The only way I could genuinely consume 10+ a day was to have five serves of vegetables for breakfast (yes breakfast), which in some ways was counterproductive as it then suppressed my appetite for the day.

The cost seemed generally okay, as I shop at the Farmer’s Market, and am able to get a wide range of fresh, seasonal produce for a low price. I definitely had more energy on the days that 10+ serves were consumed.

Thankfully I didn’t have to resort to blended smoothies for day-upon-day. If snacks are not consumed throughout the day, meeting 10+ a day is potentially more challenging as it requires at least three serves of fruit and/or vegetables to be consumed at each meal.  

 

The verdict

Most of our nutrition experts found it relatively easy to up their vegetable and fruit intake. While the whole group didn’t quite get to the 10 plus serves many got close to it, and any increase in fruit and vegetable content is a good thing! There were some challenges – fullness was a common theme as was the need to be relatively planned and organised to ensure vegetables and fruit were the basis of upcoming meals and snacks.

The entire team enjoyed the challenge of increasing something. They felt it was far more positive and enjoyable, compared with cutting out foods which can often accompany modern eating fads.

By increasing the consumption of vegetables and fruit within our diets we were replacing certain foods – likely to be refined carbohydrate-based foods such as pasta, rice and breads. We think this is a good thing. After all, vegetables and fruits should make up the foundation of a heart healthy dietary pattern.

Some meal ideas to help you reach your 10 a day

How many fruit and vegetables should you eat?

Five top tips for increasing your fruit and vegetables

  1. Plan ahead for meals and snacks particularly work lunches. Try cooking extra vegetables with evening meals and use them as a basis for upcoming lunches, meals and snacks.
  2. Choose vegetables from all the colours of the rainbow. Each colour provides a different range of nutrients. Try to place an emphasis on non-starchy vegetables.
  3. Buy vegetables and fruit that are in season, consider canned, frozen, and prepackaged salad options to add variety. 
  4. Dressed for success! If you need dressings to make vegetables exciting then embrace it! Let’s face it, something as simple as olive oil and vinegar can sometimes make all the difference between an extra 2-3 serves of vegetables or not. Like anything, the trick is not to overdo it and drown your vegetables in the process.
  5. Fritters, curries, stirfrys, mince, pasta sauces, lasagna, moussakas and wraps all provide great options for upping the vegetable intake. 
Check out our delicious vege-packed recipes
Dave Monro, NZRD

Dave Monro, NZRD

Food and Nutrition Manager

I completed chef training while studying nutrition/ dietetics and enjoy combining both of these elements to develop practical solutions for families to eat healthier.