Hi ladies, whether you are attempting to eat yourself healthy, or to grow happy, full-of-juice children, but are still struggling to eat 5 portions of fruits or vegetables per day, here are some really easy ways to achieve this. OK, ok… most days you won’t actually achieve 5/day, but whilst trying to reach that target, you might achieve a more realistic one of 3 portions of fruits and veggies per day. Good luck!
1. Buy yourself a soup maker
Nope, no… this is not some tricky attempt to get you into buying something. Nobody is paying me to write this article (unfortunately). I’m just trying to help you do yourself a favour. Ever seen a soup maker? They look just like a big kettle (pic below, my soup maker by Morphy Richards), and are about as easy to use as one. Just chop some vegetables, add some salt or stock, cover up with water, push the button.. and. that’s. it.Twenty minutes later, just pour the soup, drink, enjoy. Was that hard? Naah. The longest part is to prep the vegs: peeling and chopping. For 1.6 liter of soup, you’re looking at a 15-minute preparation time, depending on how skilled you are with a peeler and a kitchen knife.
My basic soup: 3 medium-sized courgettes, 3 nice carrots (you can replace some carrot with some butternut), 1 parsnip or 2, a small handful of fresh spinach leaves or a small handful of French beans. If there’s some room left, a small potato, or some sweet potato.
You can be as boring or as daring as you like. You might end up with some disappointing results sometimes (I wouldn’t recommend broccoli for example), but if you stick to “safe” veggies that go well together, you should end up with a satisfying, smooth soup (or velouté) full of vitamins and minerals. To save time, you can buy pre-packed vegs (peeled and diced butternut will save you lots of time and effort) too, and they don’t cost the earth.
For the kids, think about putting some cheese cubes in their bowl of soup to make it just that lil’ bit more exciting (Cheddar, Emmental, Gruyere).
2. Dried fruits
Dried fruits are not only delicious to snack on, any time of the day, they are also packed with goodness: vitamins, fibers, minerals, antioxidants. And good quality dried fruits are just that, dried fruits (not candies), ie fresh fruits with the water removed. However, do not stuff your face with those (yes I know… they look so small and harmless), as they contain the same amount of sugar than the fresh fruit. When buying dried fruits, make sure that the only ingredient is the fruit (no added sugar or corn syrup), and stay away from stuff that’s got sulfites – or sulphites, or sulphur dioxide – in it (a preservative that maintains the color), especially if you’ve got asthma or suffer from a sulfite allergy (obvs!). The ugliest the fruit, the healthiest!
- Dried figs: high in antioxidants and in minerals (iron, magnesium, calcium), low(ish) in sugar and calories (compared to dates, for example), they also help remove harmful estrogen (I suggest you read more on the subject as it’s very interesting indeed, but I’m no estrogen expert).
- Dried apricots and dried prunes: dietary fibers (helps reduce total cholesterol level + supports healthy bowels), high in potassium (for a healthy blood pressure) and non-heme iron (consume with vitamin C for better absorption)
- Also try dried bananas, dried mangoes, cranberries (and berries in general), etc
3.Easy, cheap and cheerful stir fry
Supermarkets offer fresh, affordable stir fry meals. The deal usually includes a pack of vegetable stir fry, fresh noodles and some exotic-sounding sauce. Enjoy a tasty, easy and quick meal that’s got veggies in it (you can use only half the sauce to make it healthier). Chances here, the kids will like it too.
If you want to stir fry some vegetables without going down the “meal deal” route, just buy some fresh veggies such as kale, remove the hard bits (well, I remove them as I don’t like hard bits), soak it for a little while, chop if off and just pop it into a pan with some hot oil in it. Leave on for a few minutes, stirring occasionally (don’t let it burn), a pinch of Maldon salt and that’s done! Almost tastes like crispy seaweed. And yes, some kids like it… my 5 year old loves it!
How about a cabbage stir fry? Cabbage is considered as one of the healthiest foods. Remember, the less you cook it, the best. Shred it, boil it rapidly until tender, and then stir fry for a couple of minutes. Lovely with roasted pine nuts and a splash of soy sauce. For a more hearty feel, throw some sausage chunks (free range, organic) into the equation. YUM!
Frying cabbage and kale is easy peasy, and ready in a jiffy. With little time on my hands and not that many fancy ingredients in my cupboards, that’s how I like things to be. Of course, there are some great veggies out there that demand stir frying, but with a bit more sophistication. Spinach is one of those, and you will find a plethora of recipes on the web…
4.Frozen fruits and vegetables
Well, I know… We are supposed to eat products that are in season, whenever possible. However, it is great to be able to vary our diet once in a while, thanks to frozen fruits or vegs (and they are in season somewhere on the planet, right?…).
My favs include extra fine French beans. I cannot seem to find them fresh (only in my parents’ garden back in France). They are slim, have a buttery flavour, and they don’t have these long, unpleasant strings in them (that I do find in just fine beans). Also, the ones I buy fresh usually expire daaaays (it’s not a typo, it’s just many days) before the “best before” date. Anyway, I just boil the frozen French beans for about 20 minutes, pass them in the butter in a frying pan to give them a crispy edge, a nice pinch of Maldon salt and a squeeze of lemon if that’s your thing.
Frozen peas are great to prepare a ham and pea soup. With the soup maker, it’s ready in no time!
They are lots of other frozen veggies, but most of them are available fresh throughout the year.
As far as fruits are concerned, I’m happy to enjoy a cup of summer fruits once in a while (comes much cheaper than buying fresh ones, especially when they are out of season and taste horrible anyway), with a splash of creme and some sugar on top (as they are a bit acid). Just remember to take them out of the freezer a few hours before serving.
If you’d rather drink fruits rather than eat them, there is such an interesting variety of smoothie mix packs out there! The range goes from summer fruits to strawberry and banana, and even mango and kale!
5.Quiches, pies and tarts
… Are a great way to get the kids to eat their veggies. Kids love taking part in grown-ups activities, and cooking is one of them. My daughters love preparing their own little individual quiches, and eat them twice as eagerly. Salmon or bacon go well with tenderstem broccoli or leek. Try a ratatouille tart: you can use a couple of cheap and cheerful tins of ratatouille, or just cook some courgettes and (tinned) chopped tomatoes (+ onions, aubergines and red pepper if you’ve got time). For the ratatouille tart, just line a baking dish with baking paper, roll our your pastry on it, empty the can of ratatouille and level, drizzle some olive oil and some grated cheese, and let it bake nicely in the oven.
Quiches are dead easy to prepare. If you are not good at making pastry, or if you’re running out of time or even ingredients, you can buy the ready-made and ready-rolled ones, which are absolutely fine (and can also come up cheaper than making one yourself).
For the filling, just cook your ingredients (courgettes, broccoli, aubergines, salmon, bacon, anything really) whichever way you want – pan for salmon, boiling for broccoli – lay them on the pastry that’s now covering an oven-proof dish (also use some baking paper to make your life easier), and cover with a mix of beaten eggs (roughly 4) and milk (roughly 500ml) seasoned to taste, and with an added splash of oil. In the oven, 40 to 45 minutes at about 200 degrees. Just keep a loving and caring eye on it.
Fruits tarts are really tasty. If you like to have dessert or pudding, go for the fruity option, and keep the indulgent chocolaty one for special occasions. And no, an Eton Mess does not qualify as a fruity dessert… Opt for an apple pie, a tarte tatin (with a ready made puff pastry or shortcrust pastry), etc. Endless yum, with the added bonus of a nutritious dessert (not just high in calories). Again, easy! As you basically just place a layer of fruit on the pastry before baking it.
6.Many other ways to get + fruits and veggies your stomach’s way
- tinned stuff: well, you know…
- salad veggies:
- carrot sticks and hummus –> carrots are so cheap and so healthy, just go for it. They will give you a lovely skin complexion too. Peel, cut into sticks, or buy a pack of carrot sticks (I find them tasteless and watery). Hummus is also easy to prepare, if you don’t mind having jumping chick peas all around your kitchen. The most expensive hummus usually contain more tahini, but I personally find it too thick and I like to stick to normal hummus.
- cucumber of course. Nice grated, then squeezed in a tea towel to remove the excess moisture out, and mixed with yogurt, garlic and seasoning. Yes, aka tzatziki!
- chicorea, quicker to have in salad rather than cooked. Just chop it, add some tasty ingredients: choose between lardons, walnuts, blue cheese, emmental, apple cubes… and just season. Fresh, tasty, easy.
- compotes (so easy and so so so scrumptious): just place your fruits (chopped, diced, sliced) in a saucepan. Add about half a a third of a glass of water at the bottom. Cover and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the fruits and the quantity). Then just mix it with an electric mixer and add some sugar/spice/flavours if you wish. Apple compote is so yummy with vanilla, although many people would have it with cinnamon.
- lentils and quinoa: just boil and season, and add whatever you want with it. Have it cold as a salad, with onions and vinaigrette for lentils, or tabouleh style for the quinoa.
Be bold, just pick up a variety a veggies next time you do your shopping, and try cooking them in different ways, and see what works best for you. Not just to make your tastebuds dance, but also what works around your busy lifestyle…