Our mummy blogger Anneliese has been set the challenge of feeding her family of 4 their 5-a-day, every day!
Research shows that the average household is still failing to reach that magic number, so Anneliese will be thinking of ways to get more vegetables into her kids' dinners, how to make sure the whole fruit bowl is used up and crucially, see if she can keep her food bills down in the process. You might think getting your 5-a-day is easy, but think again. Over to you Anneliese...
Mummy's Little Helpers | Anneliese's recipes (opens in new tab) | Feed your family on £20 a week (opens in new tab)
The challenge explained
I think it's fair to say that I love a challenge, so when I was asked to keep track of how much fruit and vegetables my family eat and to be sure to stick to the recommended 5-a-day target, I thought, how hard can it be? My family of 4 happily eat fruit and veg!
A few days down the line, and I can't help noticing the lack of variety in our fruit bowl or how my 4-year-old boy suddenly detests broccoli. What happened to the little boy who would eat the vegetables from his plate before he touched anything else?! Yes, my 2-year-old loves apples and carrots but he turns his nose up at most other things. Suddenly, I am feeling rather daunted at the prospect of ensuring we ALL reach our 5-a-day, every single day!
Before starting this challenge on 1 January, I have looked into why it is so important to reach this recommended target. I have always known that eating fruit and vegetables is what we should all do but, I admit, I didn't really know why! I came across this article in the Daily Mail (opens in new tab) and was told that eating just a few portions of fruit can cut the risk of premature death by heart disease by up to 50 per cent, not to mention help to protect against certain cancers and even ward off those pesky cold and flu viruses... the list goes on. All of a sudden, I was taking this challenge very seriously and revaluating my own diet. I tend to skip most fruit; it's expensive and I know the boys like it, so I leave it for them. I tend to heap vegetables onto my husband's and children's plates, thinking it's better that they have it, rather than me. Not only have I been setting a poor example to my children by skimping on my own fruit and vegetable intake, but I could be heading towards a future of ill health - and what use would I be to my family then?
Of course, it's all very well and good deciding that I WILL ensure we eat our 5-a-day, but working out portion sizes only further boggled my already boggled brain! All four of us require varying portion sizes, due to age and gender so I was left feeling rather confused. It obviously isn't going to be a case of shoving a load of fruit into the blender and making a smoothie every day. I will have to think out and plan each meal and snack to be sure that we all finish the day with tummies full of the correct portions of fruit and veg, or enough at least. This challenge is certainly not as easy as I first envisaged! Just when I was hit by a wave of doubt, I came across this wonderfully simple website, what's a 5-a-day (opens in new tab), where you can choose any fruit and vegetable and it will immediately tell you how many you need to eat to equal a portion. Hooray! I am sure I will be using this handy website on a daily basis.
As my two young boys have suddenly decided that each vegetable needs to be thoroughly dissected and inspected at every meal time, I think I am going to have my work cut out. I had thought I was on to a winner with potatoes as we eat them nearly every day. I was saddened to read on the NHS website that potatoes are not actually included in our 5-a-day as they are considered to be a starchy food, so are clubbed together with other starchy items such as pasta and rice. On a positive note, potatoes contain vitamin C and are a great source of fibre when we leave the skins on, so I shan't feel too broken hearted!
I think the main issue with my children is that they are immediately aware that they have vegetables on their plates as I have never made any effort to disguise them; I used to congratulate myself on having such good eaters. However, my four-year-old is now very suspicious of anything other than carrots, while his two-year-old brother is keen to copy him! I have now accepted that I cannot simply let the vegetables left on the plate get thrown away; instead, I shall do my best to disguise the nutritious mouthfuls by grating, mashing and blending every root vegetable or bean in sight! I am sure that I can hide all sorts of goodness in a Bolognese, homemade burgers and sandwich fillings. I can't wait to get started to see what cunning ideas I can come up with!
Not only will I need to come up with crafty inventions to cram the recommended 5-a-day into my children, my husband and me, but I will also need to see how our family food shop will change. Although, we buy a fair amount of vegetables and fruit, we will have to buy more to reach our target on a daily basis. I am sure we will feel the pinch to our purse strings - but by how much? Will we have to cut back on other food items to allow for the extra expense? My main worry is the waste. Just because we buy lots of fruit and vegetables does not mean that I can force feed it to my children! I really will have get busy with my grater!
My aims for the challenge:
1. Try a variety of new fruit and vegetables (and get the kids to eat them without complaint - wish me luck!)
2. Keep waste to a minimum - there's nothing worse than waste so I'm going make sure any waste is put to good use and used for other meals too.
3. To not spend too much money on our food shop - I know fruit and vegetables can be pricey so we're going to shop around before we buy to make sure we save money.
4. To plan ahead – every meal, every shopping list etc. and plan out what we're going to eat each week.
Watch this space for more to follow!
Week one: It's all about the money, honey!
The first week of my 5-a-day challenge has come to an end - and my goodness, has it been an expensive one! On New Year’s Eve, the boys enjoyed the afternoon with their grandparents while Neil and I headed to several supermarkets to make the most of some alone time. To be honest, rare child-free supermarket trips can almost be classed as a pleasant day out as we are free to browse without refereeing arguments and no toddler to my shopping list!
Our first shop for the challenge started in Aldi and it went quite well. Whenever I shop in Aldi, I am always amazed by the great value. We were able to get grapes, butternut squash, swede, red peppers and lots more at very reasonable prices. I also bought tinned kidney beans, chickpeas and chopped tomatoes as they are also included in your 5-a-day.
As I had already written out my meal plan for the first week, it was a little frustrating when I couldn't find a few key ingredients. I was greeted by empty boxes when looking for fresh strawberries and beetroot, there was no frozen or fresh spinach to be found and what few lemons they had weren't in good shape. As Tesco was almost next door, we decided to try there too. We managed to locate the frozen spinach, but still couldn't get hold of any strawberries but did manage to put a few non-essentials into our trolley... We certainly paid the price at the check-out! Despite only leaving with a few bags of shopping, we managed to spend a whopping £59.48. This is more than we would normally spend in a week and what was worse, I would need to buy more in just a few days!
I tried to push the big overspend out of my head when my challenge started the following day. It was New Year’s Day, which is typically a time when most of us try to avoid chocolate and cakes and aspire to eat a healthy well balanced diet. I usually only last three days before I am back on cake. However, this time things are different. I can still eat my beloved cake but I also have to squeeze in five portions of fruit and vegetable every single day. This may not sound too difficult but over the course of this week, I have eaten far more than usual and my tummy feels constantly full. I worry that my waistband will soon start to feel the pinch!
I often skip breakfast. I tell myself that I am too rushed to eat it and, by the time I get home from the school run, I have a cup of coffee and a biscuit (or two) instead. Now, however, breakfast equals a great opportunity to tick off one or even two of my five a day. This in turn fills me up and stops my biscuit snacking! I have enjoyed porridge with banana, delicious blackcurrant bircher muesli and fresh blueberries with natural yoghurt and cereal. I have to say though that I fear that I am in danger of turning blue. An adult has to eat four heaped tablespoons of blueberries to equal a five a day portion. That is a huge amount when you actually sit down to eat it! I had to force myself to munch through every last blueberry, and then Oliver decided that he could only manage half of his. As the blueberries cost £3 for the 250g punnet, I couldn’t bear to throw them away so ate those too. I could barely face my blueberry pancakes the next day!
See what the Giggins family have been eating this week (opens in new tab) (Plus how many of their 5-a-day have they consumed each day!)
Lunch has been the most challenging meal and so far we have mostly had large mixed salads in sandwiches or mixed into a pasta salad. The mixed salad is full of things such as celery sticks, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, grated carrot and sweetcorn. I am very cautious and class the giant salads as just one portion of our five-a-day. Despite the variety, some of the quantities are not enough on their own so I have grouped them all together as the NHS website suggests. Another confusing aspect of the portion sizes is the child’s allowance. After some research online, it appears that a child under 10 years of age has roughly half of an adult’s portion. An adult’s portion should weigh 80g, so I think that if my boys, who are aged two and four have around 40-50g then we are doing alright!
Of course, you cannot forcefeed a child their recommended quota. If a small child does not want to eat something, there is nothing that can be done about it. I have spent a lot of my time this week trying to cajole and even beg Oliver at least to try his pasta salad, parsnip roulade or swede fries. Oliver seemed to take great pleasure in shaking his head, forcefully pushing his plate away and shouting “TOAST” every single time! I topped him up with snacks of grapes or apples and even put extra carrot on his plate, the one vegetable he can't get enough of! A few days in and I tried sitting Oliver on my lap after enduring another dinner time stand-off. I put his untouched veggie-topped pizza in front of him and he immediately tucked in. He has homemade pizza each week but I think that all the other new meals had unsettled him and he simply needed some reassurance and a cuddle. At least with Isaac I can explain what we are having and I can encourage him to try new things. On most occasions, he will clean his plate once he allows himself to try it. The butternut squash falafels are a case in point. He hates butternut squash and had seen me preparing it (despite my best efforts to hide it) so had already decided he wasn't going to like the falafels. Thankfully, Isaac did reluctantly give them a try and then went on to eat the lot. However, he wasn't keen on the sweet braised red cabbage, which Oliver enjoyed, or the homemade mushroom soup, which Neil and I loved!
I regained the boys’ trust on Monday when I made my ever reliable spinach pasta bake. Using frozen spinach is such a money saver and it is also a lot easier to prepare. Isaac has declared this to be his favourite meal since he developed the power of speech, while Oliver always inhales his portion so I declare it to be a winner! This is the meal I make when we are rushed and tired. I sometimes use a jar of pasta sauce or make my own depending on my level of exhaustion! I fully expected to make my own tomato sauce for this challenge but couldn't resist taking a peek at a jar of sauce when at the supermarket and was surprised to see that it included one of our five-a-day, hooray! Although I do like to make our meals from scratch, it is nice to take a shortcut every now and then.
So at the end of this first week, we have visited the supermarkets on four occasions and the visit with the boys was the most eventful. If you look at the receipts, you will see that we bought a single carrot in Sainsbury's. We have no need for this random carrot but felt we should buy it after Isaac picked it up and started to eat it. This moment reminded Neil and me why our New Year’s Eve shopping 'jaunt' was such a treat!
Of course, all of these supermarket trips have meant that we have spent a scary amount of money. I am confident that we will have no need to spend this much in the weeks that follow as we have now purchased most of our staple foods such as tinned tomatoes, potatoes, cereals, cheese, etc. I had wanted to visit our local farmers’ market last weekend, but we had such heavy rain that the market square was deserted when we arrived. I aim to try again this weekend and see if I can bag any bargains. I will also look into using more tinned and frozen fruit and vegetables as they are still classed as being part of our 5-a-day and that is what this challenge is all about. It will also be interesting to compare their quality, taste and texture. Another aim is to find ways to sneak vegetables into the boys’ food. I have never made any attempt to hide fruit and vegetables in the boys’ food but it is becoming clear to me that trying new things can be off-putting for young children, while texture is also an issue. For instance, Isaac tells me that mushrooms taste like slugs. As I have never eaten a slug, I cannot possibly compare!
Join me next week when I get grating, blending and mashing...
Week two: It's going grate!
This second week has been an interesting one and, despite a few frustrations, I have really enjoyed it. I am eating much more than I usually would, but this is purely because I am eating well. I no longer skip breakfast, choose a biscuit over fruit or eat boring toast for lunch. I am quickly realising that this challenge is forcing me to address my own diet, not just that of my children. After all, my job is to lead by example; it is important that I set a good one!
The hardest part of this challenge so far has been lunchtime. It is really tricky trying to come up with a variety of food to put into Isaac's lunchbox. However, I have to say that Isaac is doing brilliantly. In fact I think he is coping better than I am! I send him off to school with a lunchbox full of carrot, celery, cucumber, red pepper and hummus for dipping. He comes home with an empty lunchbox while I didn't manage to finish my celery! I am starting to wonder if I have been underestimating my boys. Was I not giving them enough variety in the past? When something was rejected did I give up too easily?
See what the Giggins family have been eating this week (opens in new tab) (Plus how many of their 5-a-day have they consumed each day!)
Fruit smoothie heaven
The best part of this week has been the delicious fruit smoothies! I have made them in the past, but I have usually stuck with bananas. However, now is not the time to play it safe, so I have added in frozen mixed berries, yogurt and pure orange juice. The resulting smoothies are absolutely delicious and jam-packed with three of our five a day. The funny thing is that my two year old refuses to eat most berries, so you can imagine my delight when he gulps down his smoothies!
Although my blender was kept fairly busy this week, my grater has been used EVERY single day. Grating is undoubtedly a tedious task but I am pretty sure my bingo wings are firming up!!!! I really enjoyed making my sage and onion veggie burgers. I have made them before, but this time I weighed the vegetables to be sure that we would have the correct quantity in our burgers. When I looked at the huge mountain of grated carrot, I realised that I was using far more than usual. So many recipes contain just one carrot, a single stick of celery or one onion, but the resulting portion sizes are of course diminished when divided across a family. It's pretty clear that we had previously fallen short; one carrot between four just isn't enough!
The beetroot challenge: Success
As I have already mentioned, this five a day challenge has made me reassess my own diet. It is also a good reason to re-visit any fruit and vegetables I have disliked since childhood. I really, really dislike beetroot and I used to beg my Mum not to put any on my plate. Whenever I dared to try it, my gag reflex was well exercised! Last week I decided to try beetroot for the first time in over ten years. However, I wasn't prepared to eat a slice of beetroot. I needed to use the same tactics that I employ on my children and hide it. Well, of course I couldn't hide it as I KNEW it was there – and anyway how can you hide the bright red colour?! My answer was to embrace the colour, simply blitz it into a purée and mash it into potato. I was amazed to discover that I couldn't taste a hint of beetroot in the resulting colourful mashed potato, hurrah! Isaac gobbled all of his up but Oliver was obviously completely thrown by the strange red food on his plate; he folded his arms and kept his mouth firmly sealed! Despite Oliver's refusal, I felt positively elated to have successfully left my beetroot demons behind and I was soon planning to make beetroot burgers a few days later!
The courgette challenge: Fail
This week has also been the week in which I made it my mission to make my boys like courgette!! When I weaned the boys, courgette was their favourite food. However, this has since changed. Any hint of a courgette and the plates are pushed away in disgust! First of all I lulled them in to a false sense of security by making a deliciously moist chocolate and courgette cake. The offending courgette was not visible in the dark brown cake so it was happily devoured. Unfortunately, just because a cake containing courgette is gobbled up, it does not mean that a courgette will be eaten in any other form. A few days later, my lovingly prepared courgette and bacon carbonara received a lukewarm response from Isaac, who reluctantly ate half. Oliver patiently picked the tiny specks of grated courgette from each individual piece of pasta before eventually eating a single handful!! Despite the disappointment I wasn't ready to give up on my courgette crusade! The following day I made courgette fritters and some sweet potato hummus to go alongside. I think 'a complete failure' is the only way to describe the outcome! The hummus looked pretty good but tasted absolutely vile and the courgette fritters were met with suspicious frowns. I added some tomato ketchup but Oliver wouldn't be tempted. Isaac did eat a courgette fritter after some shameless begging on my part but didn't ask for seconds!
The day was thankfully redeemed when I made shepherd's pie for our evening meal. I went all out with my veggie hiding tactics! I blended all of the vegetables until they were almost at a purée consistency and, yes, I added some courgette too! The mashed potato was another good excuse to add more vegetables. I cooked the potatoes with a swede, mashed them together and offered a silent prayer that swede hater Oliver wouldn't notice! This time I surfed the waves of success as both boys devoured all of their veggie packed meal, unknowingly scoffing four of their five a day in one sitting! To celebrate I made some 'cheat's cheesecakes’ for dinner, topped with homemade jam from a friend and some tinned strawberries. I really wasn't sure what I would make of strawberries from a tin but I was pleasantly surprised. Despite their ugly appearance they were very tasty. Of course I'd rather have fresh, but in January they are very expensive and not easy to come by!
Money, money, money
At the end of the second week I feel that we are just starting to level out our spending. Yes, £81.18 is still a bigger spend than I am happy with but it is better than the £107.32 we spent over the course of the first week! For the second week in a row, we attempted to visit the local farmers’ market but, yet again, we were hit with bad weather and there were no stalls to be seen. Instead we drove on to a farm shop and were greeted with an array of beautiful fruit and vegetables. The prices were reasonable but sadly we couldn't get all that we needed. Another trip to the supermarket ensued! It is becoming clear that, if you wish your family to eat their five a day, it will impact on your finances, even if you are able to shop around. I am now longing for an allotment so that we can grow our own!
Next week I want to try a fruit or vegetable that none of us has ever tried. This challenge has made me want to try new things and I am keen to see what we can find; it may prove trickier than I think!
Week three: Out with the old, in with the new!
I am well over half way through my 5-a-day challenge and eating a multitude of fruit and vegetables has become second nature. My overall health seems to be responding to the extra vitamins I'm getting! I feel a little less sluggish, my mood is brighter but most importantly, I haven't had my usual January cold. Yes, we do still have a week of January left and I have probably tempted fate but I'm still glad to have gone this far without developing my usual sniffles. The boys have also avoided the germs that waft their way through school. I can't help wondering if the change to our diet has already improved our immune systems in these 3 short weeks. If we are able to fight off a few more colds, then I am happy to continue peeling and grating veggies and using my blender on a daily basis!
Our first celeriac encounter
This week I was keen to try a fruit or vegetable that the family had ever eaten before. I thought it might be a little tricky but it ended up being so much harder than I thought. Perhaps our family is not as adventurous as I had previously thought?! In the end, I was forced to pick up a muddy, gnarled celeriac from the supermarket shelves as it was the only thing that none of us had tried.
Once home, I looked online to see what I could learn about this seemingly uninteresting root vegetable. I must admit that I was disappointed to read that it tasted similar to celery! Not one to be put off, I decided to make a celeriac lasagne which, just to confuse, contains no pasta. Alternate layers of sliced and puréed celeriac make up this side dish. I was pleasantly surprised at the result, but sadly Isaac and Oliver were not. Their celeriac lasagne was left to go cold on their plates. However, I am glad we tried something new and I now know not to be put off. The boys were not keen on this dish, but I can still try adding celeriac to mashed potatoes and will attempt this recipe in a few month’s time, to see if they can be tempted...
Breakfast, lunch and dinner explained
I haven't made any new changes to our breakfast choices this week. We seem to have settled on just a few selections, such as, Weetabix and banana, fruit smoothies or porridge with grated apple. Most weekdays we go for the Weetabix and banana option as it is the quickest to scoff in the mad rush to get to school. I know the boys would happily have the fruit smoothies every single day but as they contain fruit juice, I worry about their teeth - also, they take ages to drink them. Perhaps they are savouring the flavour, but I have never known such slow drinkers!
Lunch is also a simple affair of either pitta bread with vegetable sticks and hummus, pasta salad, or cheese and cucumber sandwiches. Raisins, grapes and apples are also included to top up our 5-a-day. As I pack a lunchbox every school day for Isaac, we wait until the weekend to enjoy a hot lunch. This weekend I made a creamy butternut squash and carrot soup. I have never been very good at making soup, so I was thrilled when this batch was full of flavour and was devoured with glee by Oliver. By the time he had finished his bowl of soup, his chin had developed a vibrant orange hue. It was a great feeling to know he had eaten 2 of his 5-a-day, especially when he protests that he doesn't like butternut squash!
See what the Giggins family have been eating this week (opens in new tab) (Plus how many of their 5-a-day have they consumed each day)
Oliver, who is 2 years old, is usually harder to convince than his 4-year-old brother. I can't persuade him to try things. If he doesn't want it, there's no way I can change his mind! This is why I am pleased to see him doing so well this week. We had even more success when I made pea pesto a few days ago. Neil didn't look too sure when I told him what was on the menu but it wasn't much different to mushy peas and his plate was soon empty! Oliver usually refuses to eat peas but he wolfed down his pasta covered in pea pesto. It just goes to show that the visual appearance plays such a big part with young children. When a fruit or vegetable is unrecognisable, they might just give it a try and find they like the taste!
Broccoli meatballs galore
Broccoli 'meatballs' were next on my list of new things to try. I hate to disappoint but they don't actually contain any meat; they are just meatball shaped! I made a tomato sauce to go with the broccoli 'meatballs' and Neil and I found them to be rather tasty. Unfortunately, Isaac and Oliver took some persuading to try the offending green 'meatballs' but did go on to eat them. Phew!
Pudding? What pudding?
With all the sweet smoothies and fruit we enjoy for snacks, we haven't felt much need for puddings of late, which makes a change! However, I thought I should make more of an effort this week. Fruit in jelly always goes down well and this time I added tinned mango. However, Oliver wasn't keen on the mango and expertly managed to pick all the jelly off of the fruit. An apple and mixed berry crumble with custard proved more successful and the bowls were scraped clean. We certainly don't have fruit crumble often enough, it's so yummy! I also had lots of fun making Rice Krispies cakes with Oliver at the weekend. I added a 5-a-day twist to our usual Rice Krispies recipe and puréed some prunes and added this to the mixture. This may sound a little odd but prunes and chocolate go very well together and the resulting Rice Krispies cakes turned out to be very moreish and were enjoyed without any guilt. They were one of our 5-a-day!
This week's grand total
After all this talk about food, it's time to turn attention to the cost of it all! I'm relieved to say that we have spent less than last week and we are now getting closer to a more sensible amount. The till receipt says £70.90 but if you deduct the cat food it's under £70!
We are now heading into the final week and I will be pushing us a little further and aiming for 7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, as there was so much talk about this being the real recommended amount in the media at the end of last year. I am in no doubt that this fourth week will be the toughest of them all but I'm looking forward to stepping up to the challenge! Will we all end up with tummy aches and an empty bank account? Time will tell!
Week four: Goodbye 5-a-day, hello 7-a-day!
Well, here I am at the end of my 5-a-day challenge and I have to say that this fourth week has been the hardest. I raised my game in this final week and tried to get my family of 4 to eat 7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day instead of the usual 5, as there was so much press coverage about this being the real recommended number at the end of last year. This was a lot harder to maintain over the course of the week. I think that if we wished to stick to 7 portions a day it would require real forward planning and a lot of extra effort.
How to be a vegetable trickster
To reach the 7-a-day target, I had to be a little more creative with our meals. I became a vegetable trickster when I made sausage and mash but ditched the potatoes in favour of butterbeans. I really didn't think Isaac and Oliver would be impressed with butterbean mash. However, we had clean plates all round; perhaps the addition of gravy helped hide my deceit! The boys even ate the vegetable risotto I made this week. In the past, I've always kept to a simple tomato risotto, but I pulled out all the stops this time and added a multitude of roasted vegetables. It proved to be a success and I think it will become a family favourite.
Using my blender
My blender was put to good use again this week when I tried to make a cauliflower sauce for the first time. I was so pleased with the recipe as it is very simple and I hoped that it would be an ingenious way to get the boys to eat cauliflower. Sadly, I made a rooky mistake and gave the boys slices of crusty bread to keep them occupied while their dinner was cooling down. The boys were so happy stuffing their faces full of bread that their cauliflower rice bake offered no temptation. They wouldn't even try it, while Oliver thought it more fun to turn his slice of bread into a regal crown! I must admit that I found the cauliflower sauce to be lacking in flavour. However, I'm sure that this can easily be solved with a little garlic and some parmesan cheese - a good reason to make it again!
This week’s 7-a-day challenge
I am pleased that we were, for the most part, able to reach the higher 7-a-day target, but Neil and I did begin to feel a bit sick as we were having to eat so much more, while Oliver went through a few extra nappies! I am delighted to report that I finally managed to get to a farmers’ market last weekend! I have had plenty of failed attempts, but this time I had two friends on hand to escort me to a wonderful monthly farmers’ market in a nearby village. There were plenty of fruit and veg stalls to look at, but I also found myself drawn to the bread stall! I did well at the market and bought carrots, onions, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, cucumber and butternut squash all for £6.50. My friend then pointed out some Jerusalem artichokes and asked if I'd ever tried them before. I hadn't, so I decided to give them a go, just in the spirit of trying new things! The lady from whom I bought the artichokes gave me suggestions on how to cook them. I followed her lead and roasted the artichokes with cheese on top. They were surprisingly tasty and the boys ate them too. Result!
The grand total for this week
Although we did well at the market, there were quite a few fruits and vegetables that I couldn't get hold of, while we also needed the usual essentials from the supermarket. Our total spend in this fourth and final week was £71.77. This is £15-20 op top of our usual weekly shop. This makes a big difference to our family budget and is not sustainable. I need to find ways to eat our 5-a-day on a more manageable amount. Fresh fruit in particular is expensive. I've found that it is cheaper to buy frozen fruit, and it will of course last longer as you can use exactly what you need and put the rest back in the freezer for another day. Even tinned fruit is acceptable and can be included in our 5-a-day, so I shall add the odd tin to our shopping trolley too!
When I look back at this 5-a-day challenge, I can see that my family has come a long way over the course of these 4 short weeks. At the start of this challenge, my fruit intake was minimal and vegetables were limited to dinner time. My two young boys would eagerly tuck into apples, bananas and carrots but everything else was eyed with great suspicion and often left untouched. This challenge has forced me to look at our diet and make a real effort to add more fruit and vegetables to our meals. I realised very quickly that we were not eating enough variety. I was giving the boys their favourites, as it was easier than trying something new and risking rejection. It is very frustrating to spend hours preparing a meal only for it to be pushed away in disgust. However, we now know that variety is the key. For example, before this challenge, I was unaware that a tablespoon of tomato purée equals one of our 5-a-day. We could easily eat 5 tablespoons of tomato purée in one sitting and think that we had done our bit; unfortunately, it's not that simple. The most important part is to eat a selection of fruit and vegetables, so I knew that I had to force my two boys out of their comfort zone.
See what the Giggins family have been eating this week (opens in new tab) (Plus how many of their 7-a-day have they consumed each day)
In the first week, I pushed the boys’ boundaries. I was surprised to find that they both loved pineapple, while Isaac amazed me by tucking into sticks of carrot, red pepper, celery and cucumber. Apparently, salad becomes acceptable when it's dipped in hummus! Fruit smoothies seem the best way to add lots of fruit to your diet. We were regularly consuming 3 of our 5-a-day in one go, just by having a smoothie for breakfast. In our final week, I started to sneak in frozen spinach and although I was aware of a faint earthy aftertaste, the smoothies were still delicious; the boys didn't notice the difference and continued to gulp them down!
I think I've managed to persuade both of my boys and also myself that fruit makes for a very tasty snack. We are now able to fill the fruit bowl with a multitude of fruity goodness - not just apples, oranges and bananas!
The hardest habit to break was, unsurprisingly, the vegetables! Give Isaac and Oliver carrots at every meal and they would be perfectly happy. These past 4 weeks, I have tried lots of new ways to serve vegetables and I have had varying degrees of success. It soon became apparent that if Isaac and Oliver could see the disliked vegetables, such as the dreaded courgette, then their plates were immediately pushed away. However, if I blended the vegetables into teeny tiny pieces until they were no longer visible in a sauce, then I would celebrate success! My blender has certainly become my best friend and is used almost daily.
The future of our 5-a-day
I have thoroughly enjoyed this challenge. We have tried so many new recipes and ideas and I think we are all better eaters as a result. I intend to keep reaching the 5-a-day target, but I'm sure that some days we won't quite manage it. Although it isn't too hard to reach our 5-a-day, it is actually quite difficult to maintain it every single day. I am happy if I can get my boys to eat a variety of fruit and veg; if we can make it 5 then that's a bonus! The tricky part is working out the portion size for each of your 5-a-day. It soon became apparent to me that we had not been measuring up in the past and we had to consume a lot more food to accommodate the 5-a-day 'diet'. I am surprised that I haven't put on a couple of stone!
I have found that my own diet has improved and the reason I haven't gained more than a pound in weight is because I didn't have any room left in my tummy for cake! I will definitely stick to making fruit smoothies, soups and also adding vegetables to mashed potatoes and blending vegetables before adding to a tomato sauce. I have learned so much and I intend to carry on learning and embrace the huge variety of fruit and vegetables we have on offer to us. How lucky are we!
Author, writer and Mum of three, Anneliese Giggins has been creating recipes for Goodto.com for the past 9 years. She has also created food-related content for household names such as Daily Mail, Daily Express and Goodto.com. Her most successful to date was how to feed a family of 4 on £20 a week.
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