Top tips for eating more fruit and vegetables

A few weeks ago I wrote about trying to up-spec my eating game to include at least 30 different varieties of fruit and vegetables a week, and I’m still doing it!

layered salad bowl

Obviously there are plenty of items that repeat weekly, but I’m trying to add in a few newbies each week too. Across the last four weeks I have eaten 50 different fruit and vegetables in total, which is probably four or five times more varied than in the four weeks before that! As an example, the salad above included mixed lettuce leaves, pea shoots & spinach as a base, topped off with olives, garlic, lentil sprouts, avocado, pickled red cabbage, tomatoes, hummus and sesame seeds – 9 veggies added to the list in one meal!

I’ve bought myself two sprouting jars and I’m really enjoying growing my own vegetables in miniature. Favourites so far are sprouted sunflower seeds and lentil sprouts (below), both of which work well in cold or hot dishes. Sprouted pulses and seeds taste amazing, add texture and colour and a whole heap of nutritional value and they are super-simple to grow.

lentil sprouts

Two jars allows me to stagger them and keep a continuous supply, or sprout two different things at once. I currently have lentils and broccoli sprouts ready to eat and I have sunflower seeds soaking in a separate pot ready to add to one of the jars when the sprouts have been moved to the fridge/eaten. Of course you don’t need to buy a special jar to sprout seeds and pulses but it makes the process very easy. And also I felt that having invested in the jars I might be more likely to keep using them long term…?!

Since the first week of doing this, I have found a few things which help me to stay on track:

  1. keep a pencil and paper in the kitchen to write everything down on a meal-by-meal basis
  2. start the week well – by bedtime on Monday this week I had already eaten 17 different fruit and vegetables, so I felt like I was winning right from the start
  3. make up batches of meals which contain a lot of different vegetables so I have them in the fridge or freezer when I need them
  4. use different fruits to make up fruit compote to go with porridge/chia pudding/granola/etc (frozen fruit is great for this)
  5. make use of what you have around – I cut down the last of my tomatoes at the weekend and made a jar of quick pickled green tomatoes
  6. collect windfall apples, pick damsons or forage for sweet chestnuts if you see them while you’re out and about (I’m not sure whether sloes for sloe gin counts but I guess you can decide for yourself!)
  7. don’t forget to include frozen, tinned or bottled fruit and vegetable options to your list – sauerkraut is one of my favourite fall-backs when I don’t want to cook but I need to up the veggie-quota
keeping track

Now that I’ve started, I’m going to keep the momentum going on my #30fruitandvegetables mission. It makes sense on so many levels – upping nutrition for heart, hormonal, bowel & cognitive health; promoting a feeling of self-care; managing energy levels; and creating a better connection with & enjoyment of eating.

You may already be far more evolved than me on this issue, but if not, and even if you don’t want to go for the full 30 in one go, why not start by adding one extra portion of vegetables to each meal or try buying one new vegetable ingredient each week. Small changes really do add up over time…

Do you eat 30 different varieties of fruit and vegetables each week?

Did you know that eating a broad range and number of fruits and vegetables each week can support your hormonal health?

Last week as part of a course I’m studying, and with my own health in mind, I felt inspired to see if I could follow the advice to eat 30 different varieties of fruit and veg in one week.

home grown!!

The aim is to use dietary measures to naturally support the body in processing & managing oestrogen levels, which in turns supports us through times of hormonal change, such as peri-menopause. In addition to eating a range of plant-based foods (including legumes, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables) and brightly-coloured foods, the goal is to broaden the range of fruits and vegetables we consume.

I am vegetarian so in theory it maybe shouldn’t be that hard. But I’m also lazy about cooking for one and a bit of a fussy-eater after a childhood of strict ‘eat what you’re given’ parenting, so I was really intrigued to see how I would get on.

I started last Tuesday and tracked back over the previous day to start my count. I had also recently done a good food shop so I already had a few different options available to get me started.

I arrived at 17 different items quite easily and really enjoyed challenging myself to fit extra vegetables into my meals:

  • cavolo nero
  • mushrooms
  • green beans
  • sweetcorn
  • tomatoes
  • spinach
  • sugarsnap peas
  • apples
  • blueberries
  • red grapes
  • leeks
  • red lentils (not sure if legumes count but I counted them anyway just in case I fell short!!)
  • kiwi
  • nectarines
  • carrots
  • avocado
  • broccoli

At this point I realised that back-up supplies would be needed so I trawled the supermarket for as many different things as I could find, including some things I had forgotten about & some that I don’t really like.

I added a few ‘deli’ items:

  • olives
  • artichoke hearts (I’d forgotten how much I love these)
  • sauerkraut (love this and eat it often but had run out)

Some vegetables I normally avoid:

  • brussels sprouts (which were better shredded and pan-fried than any other way I have ever eaten them)
  • parsnips (I don’t mind them but wouldn’t usually choose them)
  • mustard cress (tasted way better than I remembered)
  • celery (I hide it in ragout-type recipes)
  • cauliflower (I had some in the freezer so I used it to make cauliflower, parsnip and garlic mash)

Some basic extras:

  • potatoes
  • butternut squash
  • garlic
  • onions
  • white cabbage (I made coleslaw with added apple and sunflower seeds)

And, last but not least, some lovely additions:

  • pea shoots (such a great flavourful addition to a salad)
  • mango (post 10-mile hike purchase)
  • blackberries (picked en-route)

So I finished my week on 32 different kinds of fruit and veg (33 if I include the red lentils, but in that case I can also include butter beans and cannellini beans so 35!) I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t really more on fruit (as I am a bit of a fruit-bat) and actually I really enjoyed finding new ways to include more vegetables into my meals.

brussels sprouts made better

One of the things I learned from this (which came as no surprise but all the same it was a good reminder) is that I basically eat the same ingredients nearly every week. Probably many of us do. Food shopping can become a bit of a chore and I think I have been following the same path through the shop each time, so that I buy food without ever needing to veer off-course. I really enjoyed thinking about what I could eat to increase my veggie uptake and it was good to look along shelves that I normally by-pass.

The best thing I gained from doing this, was a stirring in my soul – a little bit of excitement about my meals, a joy in new found flavour (& texture) combinations, and a better connection with what I was eating. My meals are usually ‘bistro bowl & single utensil’ options so that I can eat without thinking, mostly sat on the sofa, distracted by a bit of catch-up TV. Last week I think I used two utensils together more than once, I sat at a table to eat more often and I actually took notice of what I was eating.

I felt like I was bathing my body in nutrients, colour, flavour and a big dose of self-care.

breakfast favourite – chia pudding, fruit compote, ground flaxseed, soaked sunflower seeds, organic yoghurt

I ate (& craved) less chocolate & consumed significantly less cheese-as-a-meal-substitute last week. Interestingly I don’t think I spent any more than usual on food because I didn’t buy snacks or lots of cheese like I might usually do. I guess time will tell how much it costs but I plan to do lots of batch-cooking of dishes which include as many vegetables as possible. Yesterday I made a green lentil ragout with eight different veggies in it – knowing that I have portions of this in the freezer will be a real bonus when I’m short on time and need a veggie-boost.

There was a downside…I used the dishwasher more than usual, but I guess that’s just part of being a grown-up & cooking actual meals?!

fresh supplies

One week on and I’m still going with the goal of 30 but I’m trying to make some changes from last week so that I don’t stick with the same 30 each week. So far I’ve added in beetroot, spring greens, pomegranate & raspberries; I’ve grown broccoli sprouts and I’m sprouting some sunflower seeds; and I have pak choi and sweet potatoes lurking in the fridge. I think the key is to layer in a couple of extra veggies at every meal – so instead of a meal consisting 3-4 ingredients, I will bump it up to 7-8 different ones, so that every meal makes a contribution to my total count (and more importantly my health!)

broccoli and friends!

So how about you? Do you (or could you) eat 30 different varieties of fruit and veg in one week? If not, might you give it a try?

If you are a way off to start with, you might not want to make such a sweeping change all in one week so perhaps start by gradually adding in a few new items each week until you get there.

Please let me know if you give it a try – would love to know how you get on and what differences you notice, particularly if you are also trying to balance your hormone levels.


green soup

In February I started following a blending/smoothie plan (see my separate blog post to find out more) and although I am still blending sometimes, the thing that has stuck the longest is green soup for lunch. I have it nearly every day! It fills me up, loads my body with nutrients and is just the easiest thing to make.

Simple green soup:

This idea originally came from Jason Vale – I think it came up in one of his juice plans  and this is my version of a simple green soup, which is effectively a hot smoothie!

You will need some green vegetables (you knew that already!) – I use whatever is in the fridge/freezer: peas, fresh or frozen spinach, fresh or frozen broccoli, leeks (washed & sliced), fresh or frozen kale, a few stems of asparagus, cabbage, broad beans…really whatever you have.

You might want to add some fresh or frozen herbs at the blending stage – basil is great, mint would work too. I also add a little chopped garlic (I have the cheat version in a jar in the fridge but you could drop in a whole fresh clove). You could add spices if you like them.

You will need some stock – I use vegetable bouillon powder but you could use chicken/ham stock.

I add creamed coconut to give it a creamy flavour but this is optional.

Here’s what you do:

  • bring the stock to a boil in a pan (I have it coming about half way up the side of the pan and then fill the pan with vegetables)
  • add all the vegetables (frozen ones in the bottom, tougher ones next, leafier ones on the top where they will steam) & garlic/spices is you’re using them
  • bring back to the boil then simmer for 3-5 minutes – enough to heat through & cook the frozen vegetables and soften any leafy vegetables, but still keep the green colour
  • stir in a chunk of creamed coconut (I cut about 1” off a standard-sized block) & allow it a few moments to melt
  • ladle everything into your blender & blitz until smooth
  • pour back into the pan, check and adjust the seasoning, add more liquid if it’s too thick and gently reheat if needed
  • if you like a bit of texture in your soup you could add a topping (toasted sunflower seeds, crispy shallots, croutons) or add something to your soup after blending (peas, cooked rice, softened leeks, tinned cannellini beans or chick peas…)
  • enjoy!

I make a batch of this every 2-3 days. I use what I need when I make it, put the rest in the fridge to reheat the next day. I tend to add cooked black rice or sweetcorn when I’m reheating it rather than when I make the whole batch.

If you’re short on time, plan ahead by making a batch at the same time as you are preparing your evening meal, and then it will be ready & waiting for lunch the next day Jx


(from February 2018)

I’m currently living on a (mostly) liquid diet and I’m pleasantly surprised by how it is going. I started following Jason Vale’s ‘super blend me’ plan three weeks ago with the intension of replacing meals with smoothies for seven days, but I haven’t really gone back to eating from a plate again yet!

The plan is promoted as a health/weight loss plan with various suggestions for how to incorporate it into your own lifestyle. For me, the primary reason for getting started was to give myself a break from cooking. Living alone and for the past three years, I’ve been solely responsible for feeding myself – there’s no taking turns when you live alone, no-one else to offer suggestions or discuss meal plans with, no-one to share the washing up & sadly no-one to share a meal with.

Just after Christmas, still grieving the loss of my Mum, I reached a point where I just didn’t want to be a grown-up anymore! I was so sick and tired of being responsible and started to feel particularly anxious about food. With Jason Vale’s latest book in my hand & my new blender shouting encouragement from the side-lines I decided I would give myself a one-week ‘holiday’ from food.

My plan was to then sign up to a food/recipe box delivery company so that I had someone else taking on some of the work-load but three weeks later I’m still blending every day, still enjoying the benefits and feeling so much less anxious about mealtimes.

In case you’re interested in giving it a try, here are some of my thoughts on blending. I’m not on commission and I’m sure there are other blending plans available but I genuinely think this approach might be a workable solution for so many people who are struggling around food, or trying to lose weight or facing digestive issues. By the way, I’m also not a doctor so please do not read this as medical guidance or advice and do your own research before embarking on any radical dietary changes.

Pros & cons:

I was worried I’d be hungry, but surprisingly I really haven’t been. My appetite has definitely decreased over the past three weeks and I’m grazing far less than previously. Now that I’ve started to add in some solid foods again I notice that my portions are much smaller with more focus on adding lots of green vegetables.

I made sure I planned ahead by bagging & freezing the ingredients for individual smoothies on a Sunday, ready to simply add the liquid and blend them as required. The first week I made up bags for all the smoothies suggested for the seven-day plan which was great because I didn’t have to think at all about what I was eating – I just opened the book and blended what I was told to blend! Thereafter I’ve made more decisions about which ones I liked best and bagged them up accordingly.

I’m not a fan of packaged milk alternatives, so I make my own almond milk (I’ve been freezing it in small bottles so there’s no waste) and I’ve been adding coconut ‘meat’ and water to my smoothies when coconut milk is in the recipe. If I don’t have nut milk available, I just use filtered water which works just fine.

I did find myself feeling very cold after the first couple of days (I think my body has been holding back a throat/chest infection for a couple of months so the coldness might have been more to do with this than the smoothies) but as soon as I started adding in a simple green soup (see separate blog post for recipe) in place of one of the smoothies, I felt much better.

I have had to substitute avocado in place of bananas as I had a pretty extreme reaction to bananas at the end of the first week. I’ll spare you the details but can happily report that avocado is a really good alternative.

One of the best things about the plan is that I can take my breakfast with me on a morning. I never really feel like eating before I head out to work but usually do it because I think I should – and because I can’t really eat a bowl of apples and yoghurt whilst training a client or driving!! With a smoothie, I can head out and drink it when & where I want to.

My stomach feels so calm and peaceful right now, no doubt as a result of having less digestion to do and a lighter load to process. I also feel that I’m getting a far higher ratio of nutrients than previously when my evening meal would often be a piece of cheese, followed by an apple, followed by another piece of cheese, followed by some nuts, followed by a packet of oat cakes…

I feel that my blood sugars are more even right now. I haven’t had any ‘hangry’ moments in recent weeks and I think it is down to the level of nutrients and the less sporadic eating patterns. Given that my Mum died as a result of a condition linked to her diabetes (type II) I am more than a little concerned about my own blood sugar levels and tend to use how I feel as a benchmark for whether I’m eating the right things.

I didn’t set out to lose weight but I suspect that it’s happening anyway (I don’t have scales so I have no ‘weigh’ to check but my clothes feel a bit easier as far as I can tell when I effectively wear pyjamas all day)

There has been a drastic decrease in spending on food over the past three weeks and no waste at all, which is great. Bagging and freezing the ingredients as soon as I buy them, means that there’s nothing left in the fridge being unused. The reduction in waste has also meant that the only things going in my household bin are the outer wrappers from fruit and vegetables (& if I had easy access to a fresh food market it would be reduced further).

Washing the blender three times a day is a bit dull (& obviously only a first world problem) but it’s a small price to pay. I tend to hand wash it the first two times and then place it in the dishwasher at the end of the day so it’s really not enough of a negative to get in the way of blending.

I’ve started to add in some ‘solids’ most days now but I’m still enjoying liquid meals most of the time. I usually have an apple or two or an apple and half and avocado over the day and most days I’ll eat a few almonds too. This week I’ve made myself a bowl of salad on two occasions just to add some different flavours (olives, hummus, feta cheese, balsamic vinegar). The big thing I’ve noticed now is that instead of hoovering up my food I’m really enjoying the process of chewing it. As an added bonus everything tastes great – I’m much more aware of my taste-buds now and it is helping me to connect with food again.

The longer term:

I think I’ve always had a pretty strange relationship to mealtimes.

As a child there were fairly old-school rules around eating (having to eat everything on my plate, not being allowed to get down until I had, being made to eat things I really didn’t like, being ‘tricked’ into eating things I said I didn’t like – and laughed at for doing so, etc, etc) but as a teenager I became more interested, once I could cook my own food. As an adult I have always tended to work at traditional mealtimes – first as a chef and then as a fitness class instructor – so I think I never really got into the habit of regular meals.

Now that I have no-one to cook for I realise that cooking has always been about cooking for someone else. Cooking for myself feels like a massive effort & frankly not worth the bother.

Blending, on the other hand feels like a quick and effective way to get nutrients into my body. It is really well suited to a vegetarian/plant-based diet and it gives me flexibility for my working hours. I think, for me, it is the way forward – probably not every meal forever but certainly one or two meals a day for the foreseeable future.

If you decide to try it, or you already do it, I’d love to know how you get on