Posts Tagged ‘health’

Support Fiona Oakes

Towards the end of this week, the alleged “toughest footrace on Earth” begins. The Marathon des Sables earned this allegation on the grounds that it is a 6-day ultramarathon, through some of the least hospitable environments on the planet.

The first stage is this coming Sunday. Over the course of 6 days, competitors will run the distance of 156 miles (with the toughest stage being 57 miles long). The competitors, of which there are only a handful of ultra-athletes, will race in the Sahara desert where the temperature is, on average, 30°C (just under 90°F), and daily fluctuations make this uncertain (with temperatures often changing drastically within a few hours).

The toughest footrace on Earth

Competitors will also have to carry the entirety of their required personal possessions in backpacks for the whole six days. This includes the food they will be eating. A number of books have been written solely about the experiences of training for and running the race. It may not surprise you that two people have died whilst competing in the race thus far.

Among the contestants for this year’s Marathon des Sables though is Fiona Oakes. Seeing as you’re on a vegan blog, you can probably see where this is heading… Fiona is the first vegan to ever attempt the Marathon des Sables, and is doing so with an ambition to smash the vegan = skinny weakling myth.

Fiona went vegetarian at the age of 4, and has been vegan for all of her adult life. Despite severe knee difficulties which struck her at the age of 14 (which resulted in the loss of a kneecap), Fiona has gone on to become an incredible athlete. She runs between 80 and 100 miles per week, with a record marathon time of 2 hours 38 minutes. She focuses primarily on speedwork – for some endurance is their aim, as finishing some of the mammoth races Fiona enters is enough; for Fiona, however, it is about winning the race.

During her running career she has made a number of accomplishments. She has reached top 10 positions in a number of international marathons (including Florence, Moscow, and Amsterdam) as well as top 20 positions in the London and Berlin marathons. She has come first in the Great North Run, a 13.1 mile event. She also came first in the Finland marathon, setting a course record by 11 minutes.

Outside of the running world, Fiona and her partner work incessantly to help the lives of over 400 animals at Tower Hill Animal Sanctuary – a completely non-profit animal sanctuary which Fiona set-up. She also has involvement with groups such as Captive Animals’ Protection Society, In Defense of Animals, and VITA (a Russian animal rights organisation).

 

Fiona will be running the Marathon des Sables to raise money for three different causes. Firstly, there is the Tower Hill Sanctuary which she runs. Secondly, the Vegan Society. Thirdly, Facing Africa – a charity for African victims of Noma, a facial disfigurement disease that affects children.

Currently, Fiona is falling way short of her target of £5000. At the time of writing she has secured just over £2000. She is becoming desperate for further donations, or even just promotion of her efforts and why she is running the race.

If you can spare any money at all towards Fiona’s effort, it will be greatly appreciated. You will be helping a fantastic athlete crush a widespread and negative myth about veganism, as well as helping a number of fantastic charity projects. Another supporter has kindly offered to double any donations made in the run-up (excuse the pun) to the race, so your donation will be doubled.

Her donation page is here.

If you cannot afford to donate yourself, please try and share this information with people who may be able to. Any support we can give Fiona is positive.

I will leave you with some thoughts that Fiona posted on her Facebook page about the difficulty in spreading the vegan message within the running community, and her hopes about competing in the Marathon des Sables:

“With 10 days to go before I leave for Morocco to compete in, what is universally acknowledged as the toughest foot race on the planet, my feelings are that of disappointment, confusion, nervousness and anger.

I am not doing this for me. I am doing this for the animals. I am doing this to promote a healthy and ethical vegan lifestyle. I am doing this to break down the many myths, incorrect information and stereotypes being widely publicised about veganism. I am doing this to get the vegan message into the wider public domain in a positive way which the masses can relate to, and what publicity am I getting or help in doing this? – hardly any.

I run my own animal sanctuary caring for our several hundred rescued animals almost single handedly. I am not a professional runner. I do not have any spare money or time for the luxuries other athletes have such as supplements, high quality diet, rest, recover, rehabilitation when injured or ill etc. I just have myself, forcing myself to train alone day in day out whilst always making sure the welfare of the animals is the primary consideration.

I am not trying to say my achievements are any greater or less than anyone else out there. However, top 20 places in 2 of the 5 World Major Marathon series, top 10 in 2 of the biggest Marathons in the world, 4 Marathons wins – all in course records – and first female home in the main race of the Great North Run (top 20 overall) do warrant some publicity for the animals surely to goodness. It is not FOR ME. I don’t want this FOR ME. I don’t care about ME. If I did I would not have dedicated my life for the past 16 years to my animal sanctuary. A life which necessitates no holidays, no money, no rest, no time for oneself. I just care about animals and giving people a reason to consider a vegan lifestyle or not giving them a reason to dismiss it as unhealthy. At the moment, Marathon running and sport is at the TOP OF THE AGENDA in this country and surely this is a fantastic time and opportunity to get people interested and involved in what I am trying to do. Millions of people worldwide compete in running races and Marathons each year and the Marathon des Sables is broadcast in 200 countries by over 1,000 television channels. I hope to be televised proudly wearing my specially adapted Vegan Runners kit to get the word VEGAN out to these people. I will be the first vegan woman to ever complete Marathon des Sables and one of only a tiny handful of women to ever compete in it. This is the race which made James Cracknell, double Olympic Champion and self confessed macho man, cry. It was worthy of the BBC funding a documentary about his exploits in this race and yet it is not worthy of any of the large organisations who are there to promote interest in vegan/vegetarianism to show any interest at all. Can you imagine the impact when the likes of Gordon Ramsay hits out with another rant about how he hates vegans as they are weak and frail, to be able to retaliate with the fact that a vegan woman has completed the Marathon des Sables (and is well over an hour faster than him in a Marathon too). It needs the larger organisations with media and celebrity contacts to act. It is no good just keeping this within the ‘animal’ movement as we are just, to coin a phrase ‘preaching to the converted’. We need to concentrate our efforts on converting and this means getting it out to those who would not normally see or hear about what any of us are doing. However, to convert others we need to give them a reason and, that reason has to be of benefit to them. If helping innocent animals were enough they would have taken the step already.

I am a woman, an amateur who spends most of her time caring for neglected, abused and vulnerable animals. I am not a great big strapping rower who has the funds to dedicate his time fully to training for this event and who is getting paid to do it. Women are, historically, judged as being weaker than men. Fact, like it or not. What are we saying here if a vegan woman is to complete this toughest foot challenge in the world. We are saying that a vegan diet is not only adequate to sustain an healthy lifestyle it is more than adequate of sustaining any lifestyle – however extreme.

There are large organisations out there whose sole remit is to promote an ethical vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and they won’t lift a finger to help. I am confused as to the reason why? They have media clout, I don’t. I use my running to promote what I believe in by leading by example. If I did not feel that the running were directly benefiting animals and the environment in some way, I would not be able to justify dedicating the time and effort to doing it. Do they think that by publicising what I am doing it might divert funds or attention from their organisation? I doubt this would happen but, even if this were the case, does it matter as these organisations are there to promote precisely the kind of positive thing I am doing so, surely this would mean ‘job done’ in their case. The important thing here is to use every opportunity to get the vegan message out there as so few such opportunities ever present themselves. Who is presenting that message is immaterial, what matters is saving lives and the best way of doing this, as we all know, is to stop the abuse that goes on in the mass production of animals for the food chain. Please can someone tell me what I am doing wrong or am I just being very naive?”

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‘Vegan’ Celebrities and the vegan diet vs. veganism

I am hugely sceptical of celebrity vegan role models a lot of the time. Not because of the person themselves, but because of the way many vegans react to their diet change. That is exactly what it is for many of them – a diet change.

I’ve mentioned previously about Bill Clinton unwittingly becoming the spokesperson for veganism in America, and when he announced that he was following a vegan diet bar a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving many vegans reacted as though a lost gospel of the New Testament had been discovered proclaiming that Jesus Christ was a member of the Animal Liberation Front. I saw a ridiculous number of comments on the internet and heard a couple from friends in real life relating Clinton’s motives for eating vegan to the causes of animal rights and environmental protection.

I’m sorry, but Clinton is not a vegan. I’m sure he hasn’t ever thought twice about wearing leather, and if it weren’t for the health benefits of eating vegan he sure as hell would be eating meat now. Just because you eat vegan, doesn’t mean that you are vegan.

What Clinton is, however, is a fantastic advocate for the vegan diet. Veganism and a vegan diet are two very separate things. Veganism is a philosophy of minimising (and, if possible, abolishing) the use of animals in your life. The vegan diet is a way of eating that relies purely on plant-based foods.

For many, the vegan diet is a starting point. I’ve known people who have come to veganism for health and stayed for the ethics. Whether or not this will happen with Clinton, I don’t know. For others, it never progresses past the stage of being just a diet.

However, those who turn to the vegan diet for health reasons are still beneficially affecting the world. To them, limiting animal abuse and environmental damage may be side effects to the health benefits that they are obtaining, but they are definitely positive side effects.

Whilst I feel global veganism may never be reached due to a combination of apathy and ignorance, the health benefits of a meat-free diet are becoming more and more tantalising. Anyone who’s seen Breaking Bad may remember this scene from the first episode, stylishly put in a comic book format by Breaking Bad Comics:

Whilst this may just be a comic of a forgettable scene from Breaking Bad (which is totally awesome by the way! If you haven’t seen it then you should watch it after reading this!) it taps into the essence of what may actually have the world turning towards a vegan diet. We have to watch our cholesterol.

There is overwhelming evidence that a plant-based diet will benefit cholesterol levels, despite Atkins, keto and paleo dieters claiming otherwise (there is little evidence to show their benefits, and the only person I’ve ever known to follow a high-protein, low-carb diet for a prolonged period has now sadly died due to bowel cancer – a disease commonly brought on by eating too much meat).

A diet that has proven to do this is an attractive one, as is one that, for most people, provides more energy, and boosts potential weightloss. With celebrities turning to a vegan diet faster than any other diet at the moment, the general public are following suit. I have read numerous times that the vegan diet isthe fastest growing diet at the moment (overtaking even vegetarianism) and it does not surprise me.

With advocates such as Clinton proclaiming the benefits of a vegan diet for health, more and more people are trying it out. For every person who goes vegan to lose weight, the demand for animal protein falls. As demand falls, less animals are utilised for meat and their products. And thus, there is a gain for veganism as a philosophy. If the world followed the vegan diet for health reasons alone, animal suffering would be minimalised.

For Morrissey, veganism is more than a dietary choice

It is, however, important for vegans to keep this in mind instead of seeing every celebrity who wants to shed a few pounds by following a plant-based diet as a hero. At times, the vegan community is at danger of becoming like PETA who seemingly lauds any celebrity as an animal rights activist simply because they said ‘I like my dog’.

There is also a danger of making the terms ‘veganism’ and ‘vegan diet’ interchangeable by describing everyone who follows a plant-based diet as a vegan.

There is a fine line between being glad for someone’s success on a vegan diet with the hope that it’ll persuade some other people to try it, and praising them as a fully blown vegan. In this regard, beliefs are everything.

The importance of vegan fitness, and a little motivation

Veganism has again exploded into the mainstream public domain over recent weeks with Bill Clinton’s announcement that he is officially following a vegan diet for 364 days of the year. With support from his doctor, he has effectively reversed cardiac problems that he has been facing as well as dropping a couple of stone in weight. Thus, he has recently become a spokesperson for veganism, albeit somewhat unwittingly.

It seems like at the moment everyone is hanging off his every word on this issue. Many nutritionists are keen to dispute Clinton and his doctor’s claims that the diet is healthy and even heart-disease reversing. Vegans are relishing the fact that they’ve got a former President now backing their diet and ideas. The media and the public meanwhile seem just generally fascinated at the whole prospect – veganism is still not a mainstream diet by any means, and a high profile figure such as this abandoning animal products and espousing the health benefits is an interesting development.

What is at the centre of this fascination though? Is it as simple as the fact that a previous junk foodist has turned his life around? I’m sure this holds some degree of weight – the celebrity culture that we live in entails this. But there is undoubtedly an added degree of fascination over exactly how it has been done – by following a vegan diet. The very same diet that the mainstream media portrays as unhealthy, lacking in protein and various vitamins and minerals, and completely unnatural. Here’s a case of a vegan diet working wonders for someone on the road to heart disease and possibly an early grave.

Veganism gets a lot of bad press, we all know this. Not least though is in the area of health. Consistently, it seems to be believed that by denying meat and dairy one is also sacrificing their fitness. I have met people who have actually told me that they couldn’t be vegan because they play too much sport/lift weights/run marathons. Of all the bullshit excuses I’ve heard, this is pretty high on the bullshitometer, due to the fact that veganism will not impair their activity and may actually enhance it.

You only have to type in ‘vegans are’ on Google, and amongst ‘stupid,’ ‘retarded,’ and ‘idiots’ it suggests ‘not healthy.’

A badly planned vegan diet is not healthy. But what about a badly planned omnivore diet? Haven’t really seen obesity, heart attacks and diabetes plague the former. Sure, there’s anemia, but that’s not too difficult to overcome. Besides, someone who is playing sports or following any kind of fitness regime should be regulating their diet heavily anyway. No one gets healthy and fit without monitoring what they’re taking in on a daily basis.

Now, I’m sure that at some point in the near future I’ll probably write up a list of vegan athletes, or at least write about a few of my inspirations. But for now I just want to write briefly about what fitness means to me as a vegan. I am a keen runner and weightlifter. I’ve never been one for teamsports really, but I love sports where I can set my own goals and tackle them, and I am committed to doing so. However, at no point have I ever felt hampered by my diet.

I ate meat for years, and was very overweight. I turned vegetarian and shed most of that. Yet since turning vegan my progress has been hugely boosted. I no longer feel sluggish and bloated from dairy products, and I’m avoiding cholesterol entirely. People are often surprised to find out that I am vegan. And this is important to me.

As veganism is still a diet that is widely unpopular in mainstream culture, every single vegan is an advert for the diet. Most people only know one or two vegans, if any. If you are that one vegan, they’ll probably look at you and judge veganism based on you.

It is your duty to prove the vegan stereotype wrong. The stereotype shouldn’t be of a skinny, preachy hippie. Prove that veganism is better than that. To me, this is a real motivation to maintain my fitness. If I am vegan, yet can outrun and outlift the majority of my peers then they will realise that something is working. If I am vegan, yet my body is in better shape than those panicking about their next meat-based protein fix then I am doing my bit to smash that stereotype which veganism has acquired.

Every vegan out there is responsible for the stereotype that develops with it. If you are that one vegan that someone knows, surprise them. Prove what veganism can be.

Forks Over Knives

The latest film to be creating a stir in the vegan world is Forks Over Knives. However, it is unusual in that, unlike other vegan movie hits such as Earthlings, Forks Over Knives barely even touches on animal abuse and the environment, or the corrupt meat industry. Instead it focuses on an aspect of veganism that is often forgotten, or that at least falls by the wayside: personal health.

Whilst you can find pages and pages online about vegan health, and books about the subject (indeed, the raw vegan movement is almost entirely about health), I have not yet seen a film on the matter, and Forks Over Knives appears to be holding nothing back. Its production seems to be excellent, and it is well sourced as it features interviews with a large variety of people from health experts such as Dr T. Colin Campbell, vegan athletes including Mac Danzig, and people who were afflicted with life-threatening illnesses who have made miraculous recoveries on a vegan diet such as Ruth Heidrich, a cancer survivor and triathlon athlete.

The film is based on Dr Campbell’s work The China Study. It examines the current Western diet, which, despite all its theoretical health plans (such as the low-carb Atkin’s Diet) and talk of conscious and healthy eating, remains to be the most unhealthy diet in the world. Despite the Western medical technology soaring above that of other areas, we continue to be the sickest people on Earth.

Taken from the Forks Over Knives synopsis: “Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population. About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels. Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to “battle” these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.”

Dr T. Colin Campbell

Now, whether or not these statistics are accurate, there is undoubtedly a vast amount of truth in what is said in this film. The China Study itself was written when the discovery was made that the wealthier Chinese children (who were living off of a diet which was high in meat and animal products) were discovered to be developing various cancers and diabetes at rates far beyond their impoverished counterparts (who rarely consumed animal products).

Whilst it’s perhaps fairly easy to look at these discoveries and think “well, that’s obvious…” it’s nonetheless great to have these ideas illustrated in a film and reiterated by doctors who are nutritional experts, and have studied nutritional health for their whole lives. Also, I often find myself getting so caught up in the issues surrounding veganism to do with animal rights and the environment that I forget about the benefit veganism is having on my body. This film looks like an excellent way to remind yourself of that, and whilst the other issues are about combatting negatives by following veganism, this should remind you of the positive thing that you’re bringing into your life.

Also, I thought Forks Over Knives was a pretty cool name, once I finally understood it (it’s knives as in scalpels… y’know, which they cut you open with when you’re having heart surgery from eating too much fatty stuff… clever, huh?)

You can read more about Forks Over Knives on the movie’s official website, and it was released a few days ago in the US. I’m unsure when it may become available elsewhere, so if you’re in the UK (like me) then you may have to wait a while. Here’s the trailer to keep you occupied until then though:

Vegetarian Couple refused the right to adopt child

This is an odd one, which stinks of the usual backward anti-vegetarian discourse that claims that no one can be healthy without meat and dairy. In Crete, Greece, a couple has been refused adoption of a child based on the fact that they eat a vegetarian diet. Now I may be able to accept that if the reasoning had been along the lines of “well the child must eat souvlaki, otherwise he/she is not a real Greek,” but sadly it comes from the usual tired vegetarians-are-unhealthy rhetoric that’s so abundant in seemingly everyone. Whilst I don’t mind my friends bullying me over living a vegan diet, and they can call me unhealthy all they wish, it’s a whole different issue when it’s Crete’s welfare services and Crete University’s medical school who are backing such statements, and when the effect is as drastic as disallowing a couple to adopt.

I think the statement that got to me more than any other from the article I read on the issue was from Antonis Kafatos. He said “A child needs to eat fish, seafood and dairy products among other things, without meat being essential.” Now, this guy is allegedly a paediatrician and a nutrition researcher, but that statement makes me wonder what the hell he has been researching for the past however many years. Here’s the thing, there’s certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that a child, and indeed any human body needs to survive and function properly. Yes, these requirements can be found in meat and milk, but they’re among many other things (most of which contain far less cholestrol, bad fats, and are generally better for the human body to digest than the animal products). To say a child needs meat and milk is ignorant logic.

Not only that, but who says that a meat and dairy-based diet is inherently healthy? I’ve seen some unhealthy vegetarians, but go and look in your local KFC and you’ll see several teen mums shovelling fried chicken and chips into their 3 year olds’ mouths. I know this situation is in Greece, but I’ve been to Greece several times and seen my fair share of obese Greek people, so I’m able to say I don’t think their diet is by any means the healthiest. The olive oil plays a hugely positive role in staying healthy, as does the sunlight, but the Greek diet is not necessarily a healthy one.

Pretty sure Stavros could lose some of that gut on a veggie diet

For more info on ridiculous anti-vegan arguments check wrosie’s post here. This decision is in the process of being examined, so hopefully it will be over-turned. In the meantime, perhaps Greece’s nutritionists should actually do some work?

Chickens can feel empathy too, shame about the people…

Whilst trawling through the internet I stumbled upon this rather interesting news article. Apparently scientists have now discovered:

adult female birds possess at least one of the essential underpinning attributes of empathy.

Basically this study found that mother hens are distressed when their chicks were disturbed by a ‘puff of air’. Now, I’m no scientist but this study, to me, seems rather obvious? Why is it that we are only now coming to conclusions that animals just might have feelings too?

But should the fact that animals have feelings mean that we shouldn’t eat them? In my research I came across this article on the same topic. Now it wasn’t really the article itself that made me post it here, but rather the insensitive comments at the bottom. People are entitled to their own opinions and I believe it is important to form and stress our opinions on different topics. Everyone’s opinions are valid. However, what gets to me most about negative comments on vegetarian and vegan issues is how uninformed carnivores tend to be. I would quite happily have an in-depth conversation with a carnivore and talk about each others views on the topic but I have yet to come across a carnivore that can form a rational opinion for why we should eat meat that wasn’t born out of his stomachs desire. The fact is most carnivore’s seem to think with their stomachs and not with their minds. They don’t seem to care about gaining all the information and processing it rationally and developing  a sound and structured argument in their favour. The reason? Because they’re ashamed to admit that what they are doing is wrong. They don’t want to hear the copious amounts of research and information because they want to continue what they are doing and so form weak arguments against vegetarianism. In fact, as I’m sure you’re aware, arguing with carnivores is like arguing with a three year old.

The one argument against vegetarianism that makes me mad more than any other has to be this one:

“If we we are not meant to eat meat, then Mother Nature would not have allowed our bodies to handle it.”

The reason this kind of argument angers me is to do with the amount of ignorance this statement generally comes with.If these people bothered to read the literature available, they would discover that actually our bodies are more optimised for plant based diets. The most convincing article I have read on this topic  would have to be this one here. I challenge any carnivore to read this article and then come back to me with their rational thoughts on the matter. Some of the key points this article stresses are:

  • “Our so-called ‘canine teeth’ are “canine” in name only.” This is to say that other plant eaters have canine teeth and ours closely resemble those of the chimp (who are almost exclusively vegan!)
  • “Our early ancestors from at least four million years ago were almost exclusively vegetarian.”
  • “Our omnivorism means we’re capable of eating meat (useful from a survival standpoint if that’s all that’s available), but our bodies aren’t geared for it to be a normal,significant part of our diets.”
  • “Our teeth, saliva, stomach acid, and intestines are most similar to other plant-eaters, and dissimilar to carnivores and true omnivores.”

These are just some of the issues brought up in the article above and I must say it is compelling reading. Whilst the article comes up with a lot points as to why our bodies are more geared towards plant based diets he does go on to say that this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any evidence to the contrary. However, when there is more evidence for rather than against you have to ask yourself this, which is the stronger argument? Carnivores will undoubtedly say their own despite the lack of strong evidence, but in a game of football if one team scores 6 and the other scores 1 the team with 6 goals surely wins? Now you can’t argue with that!

Another statement that particularly irks me is this one:

You know..plants are alive too. They are living things.”

These people are morons. I’m not afraid of saying that. Are they actually suggesting that plants are on the same level as other animals? Do you not regard your pet dog higher than a lettuce leaf? Because to me this is what your argument suggests. Oh, you’re just talking about animals you don’t care about? Right. Got it. Moron. This is a pathetic statement and one that I refuse to acknowledge (except for just now!). It goes hand in hand with this argument:

But other animals eat animals so why shouldn’t I?

Well this is a fine observation and I will give these people a gold star for their observation techniques. They clearly have some thought process. However, what they fail to note is that in the wild it’s all about survival of the fittest. In the wild the hunted have a chance to get away from the hunter if it’s own evolution has served it well enough. Back in our world we force animals to endure no end of pain and suffering, give them barely enough room to stand in, take their young away from them, and force them to eat gallons upon gallons of utter shit and then kill them in barbaric ways, (amongst other vile things that people would rather be ignorant to so they can enjoy there chicken dinner without guilt). Never once giving them a chance. I don’t think you can compare other species to ours when it’s a fixed race all along. And when you show these people the evidence above this argument has little stand on.

Another point I wish to stress before I finish is that the arguments for vegetarianism go far beyond our bodies abilities to simply process meat. It goes beyond desires, tastes, and people’s view of animals. There are environmental reasons for plant based diets. I read that if everyone went vegetarian you could feed the whole world and have food left over. While people still eat meat you can only feed a third of it (This is from a fact sheet from Peta). The meat industry is slowly but surely destroying our amazing landscapes and natures hard work by gutting down trees and preparing land for livestock. When you think about these other factors and results of  the meat industry it makes you feel guilty. In fact, it makes carnivores appear rather selfish, don’t you think?

So I put this last thought out to the carnivores of this world. Whilst you sit there eating your bacon cheese burger, take a moment to think about everything that it stands for. Think about how much of the world you’ve destroyed for your second of enjoyment!

If you’re not convinced, why not ask your doctor about meat, below! Enjoy.

How to get your 5 a day without much effort!

We’re told that as part of a healthy diet we must try to eat at least 5 fruit and vegetable portions every day. In fact we’re made to feel positively guilty if we aren’t achieving this on a daily basis. It can seem quite difficult to reach 5 portions EVERY day, but actually, it’s a lot easier than you might think. I’m going to attempt to show you different ways you can get fruit and vegetables into diet without you really noticing….

First things first::.

-What counts?

Did you know that your fruit and veg doesn’t have to be fresh in order to count towards your 5 a day? Nor do you have to eat them on their own. Here’s a quick run down of things that count towards your portions:

  • fresh fruit and veg (obviously!)
  • frozen fruit and vegetables
  • tinned or canned fruit and veg (try to get the ones tinned with natural juices or water rather than sugars!)
  • dried fruit, such as currants and figs
  • fruit and veg cooked in dishes such as soups and pastas (did you know half a can of heniz spaghetti hoops counts as 1 of your 5 day!)
  • a glass of unsweetened fruit juice (note: this only counts as a maximum of 1 of your 5  a day no matter how much you drink)
  • smoothies (smoothies count up to a maximum of 2 portions)
  • beans and pulses (again only count as a maximum of 1 of your 5 because they contain fewer nutrients than other fruit and veg)
  • fruit and veg in convenience foods such as ready made meals etc. (it should say on the packet whether it counts towards your fruit and veg portions but be careful with these, some ready meals are high in salt, sugars and fats. So don’t use these as a regular substitute for fruit and veg. Remember to always check labels!)

-tricks of the trade

So how can we manage to get all of these things into our diet daily? Easy! Just follow some of these easy tricks:

  1. Chuck some beans in your curry, put some peas or broccoli in with your pasta, throw some chick peas or butter beans in your soups
  2. Top your cereal with fruit (fresh or frozen- make sure you defrost though!) berries and bananas work beautifully!
  3. In stead of snacking on crisps why not try an apple? Or a banana? Or perhaps some dried fruit? A little pack of raisins goes a long way.
  4. Have a side salad with your meal instead of chips. Dress it up nicely and it’ll look just as tasty as a greasy fried potato!
  5. Instead of your morning coffee try some orange juice. Or cranberry. Or apple. Or apple and elderberry. Or ruby breakfast. Or any other type of juice you like. It’s such a quick and easy way portion maker and won’t leave you with nasty coffee breath. 
  6. Buy a blender and make your own smoothies! There’s so many different combinations of smoothies you can try and you can have some real fun creating your own concoctions and they can count as 2 portions. Thus, if you have a smoothie for breakfast you’re almost half way there before you’ve opened your eyes properly.
  7. REMEMBER: to get the most benefit out of your portions try eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I like to make sure whatever meal I’m cooking has a least two colours of F+V in it. Then I know I’m getting lots of different nutrients.

If you make sure to change some of daily habits with the tricks above you’ll be laughing your way to a happy and healthier life and won’t have to apologise to your poor long suffering tummy for filling it with junk!

Just a quick note here on potatoes: Potatoes, as lovely as they are, DON’T COUNT as a portion of your five a day. Nor do yams, cassava, and plantains. They are considered starchy foods. Other root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips DO count!

However, whilst potatoes don’t count as part of your five a day, they aren’t all bad. In fact they do help to play an important role in your diet. They are a good source of energy, fibre, B vitamins and potassium. (As long as your not suffocating your potatoes in salt and oil, they are an excellent choice of starchy food!)

I hope this helps!

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