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When you can't "eat your greens"

When you can't "eat your greens"

"Eat your greens" is a childhood mantra, and we have all heard the advice that we should be “eating the rainbow”. But many of us (children and adults alike!) don’t like fruit or vegetables. safefood dietitian, Joana da Silva, has some strategies for getting fruit and veg into your diet.

“Eat your greens” is a childhood mantra, and we have all heard the advice that we should be “eating the rainbow” but many of us (children and adults alike!) don’t like fruit or vegetables.

I do not eat strawberries, because as a child the shape reminded me of a nose! If like me, you have a fruit or a vegetable that you really do not like, don't worry. As long as you have a varied healthy diet that includes plenty of other fruits and vegetables, that is totally fine. 

However, if we really don't like most fruit and vegetables, we are restricting very important nutrients in our diets. How can we find ways to overcome this?

So let’s get the facts right on fruit and vegetables and see if I have some strategies that you may find helpful.

How much do we need from the vegetables, salad and fruit shelf and why?

The Irish guidelines recommend five to seven portions a day, and half of our dinner plate should be filled with veggies.  Fruit, veg and salad are low in calories and have plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Foods from this group also help us control our body weight as part of a healthy lifestyle. And they help to protect us from heart disease and some types of cancer.

What counts?

Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried fruit and vegetables all count, as well as juices and smoothies. Limit fruit juice or smoothies to one small glass (150ml) a day and have it with a meal.

How much is a portion of vegetables, salad and fruit?

  • 1 medium sized fruit - apple, orange, pear or banana
  • 2 small fruits - plums, kiwis or mandarin oranges
  • Small fruits - 6 strawberries, 10 grapes or 16 raspberries
  • 150ml unsweetened fruit juice
  • ½ cup cooked vegetables – fresh or frozen
  • 1 bowl of salad – lettuce, tomato, cucumber
  • 1 bowl of homemade vegetable soup

Some ideas to start

  • First, know that you’re not alone, other people have similar feelings towards different foods. 
  • If you have cereal or porridge for breakfast, add some fruit, such as sliced bananas, strawberries or sultanas.  Start with a half portion and increase the amount over time.
  • Have a small glass of fruit juice with your breakfast every day.
  • Pick one veg that you can tolerate. Get used to eating that over time and wait until you introduce another. Same with fruit, there is nothing wrong with getting two of your portions from the same fruit or the same vegetable. It takes time to get used to flavours and textures that we don’t eat routinely.
  • Try more vegetable soups and sauces to start with. Make the soups a bit more chunky over time so you can get used to it.
  • Try some crunchy salads with some proteins you like (some cheese, chicken, eggs or nuts for example). Start with a few leaves and half a tomato or cucumber and increase from there.
  • Make a plan and aim for consistent and sustainable changes. If you feel that you need three months to get to your five-a-day, so be it. Small steps in the right direction is what you are looking to do. You are creating a new habit, a healthier one, and that takes time.

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