Tuesday, 8 April 2014

7 a day challenge - Day 7

Today was the last day of my challenge to eat 7 portions of fruit and vegetables in 7 days.


I started the day with my fruity toast (like I had on day 5).  Delicious.


I was with a visitor at work today so I had a buffet from the canteen.  For all my criticism earlier in the week, they didn't let me down, the fruit platter saved the day.  It was served with orange juice as well on the side and every sandwich had a salad garnish and coleslaw inside.  I easily racked up three portions with the juice (even if that always feels like a cheat.)

What the cool kids are eating (maybe) haggis, peas, broccoli and sweetcorn.  I do love haggis!  It is the ultimate rebellion food as well after a week of vegetables!

7 a Day?  Achieved.  Mixed berries (cherries, blackberries, raspberries, black currants, red currants and strawberries), lettuce, cucumber, carrot, cabbage, peppers, pineapple, melon, strawberries, orange juice, peas, broccoli and sweetcorn.  A massive 17 different types of fruits and vegetables but probably only 7 a day in quantities.

My son rounded off a nursery day full of fruit and vegetable with a snack of banana, dried apple and some watermelon.  Result.

What have I learned?

It takes planning

There is no quick sling it from the freezer option, when you're trying to eat 7 a day, well the options are limited anyway.  Home made soups were a life saver and I ate soup on 4 of the 7 days which is no coincidence.  I would probably have switched to salads if the weather had been better but soup frozen in individual portions is a great way to ensure you have a healthy and cheap lunch.

It was difficult

More than I thought it would be.  It took time and effort and my first thought of what I wanted to eat often went out of the window.  I ended up doing more 'hidden vegetable' solutions than I expected, e.g. putting more into soups than I normally would or putting peas in rice.  This is fine but

Portion sizes

A 'portion' of fruit or vegetables was much bigger than I thought.  This meant I often didn't have any room left for foods I wanted (rather than needed) like cake!  You might see this as a good thing but I don't.  Personally I think if you deprive yourself of something you really want you end up eating more.  On more than one occasion I still had the cake despite not really being hungry.


Although I ate less meat, I had meat available in my freezer so for me this week has actually been more expensive than I expected but that would have balanced out over time.  The big thing was 7 fruits and vegetables a day will require you to do at least one top up shop in a week which I don't normally do.  Just the simple act of going into a shop twice means you're likely to spend more.  This could be difficult for people on limited budgets.

'Winner ingredients'

There were a few things though which saved the day when I was getting a bit run down with it and also don't cost much money.  I am only a sample of one but if I was designing public policy, these are the ingredients I'd talk to the public about as ways to easily increase their vegetable and fruit intake.

Frozen vegetables; particularly peas were a lifesaver.  Cheap and last forever so you can grab them when you need them.
Carrots; last well in the fridge and can be sneaked into soups, served in salads or as a side vegetable, the ultimate adaptable ingredient.  British carrots are also available all year round making them pretty cheap to buy.
Mixed frozen berries; I was so pleased when I found these in my freezer.  They were a cheap bag from a supermarket I'd forgotten about which livened up two breakfasts and a pudding.  Also because there were so many different types in it, I could justifiably have them twice in one day and count both portions.
Lentils; it's easy to forget pulses can count towards your fruit and vegetables in a day.  I used them in soups but they're also great to pad out meat sauces, especially bolognese.  Green lentils are also fantastic in a salad.  A great store cupboard staple, never go off and unlike other pulses don't need soaking before use.
Passata; I used this as a way of getting tomato into my diet when they're currently out of season and lasts forever in the cupboard.  At about 40p a pack, it made a fantastically cheap lunch of gazpacho.
Garlic, garlic, garlic; I never counted this as one of my 7 but garlic, and chilli featured a lot over my week.  Adding flavour to healthy food is key to making it feel tasty and sustaining.

So is it doable?

Every day, for me, probably no.  It's the portion size which does it.  I could easily fit 12 fruits and vegetables into my diet but 7 portions was hard.  I can understand why the advice is there.  Eating 1 grape is not going to make any difference but then does eating 5 grapes vs. a handful?  Does it really make a difference?

Personally I never diet because I hate being told what to eat and what not to eat.  Doing this for 7 days made me feel like I was on a diet which drove me to cake!  I would rather eat what I want, when I want and stop when I'm full knowing that I enjoy the taste of fruits and vegetables, they will always be a high proportion of my diet and more than half of most of my main meals but this is not going to be achievable advice for most of the population.

What about the research?

Strictly speaking the research indicated 10 a day was the best number, 7 was shown to improve health and it looks like canned and frozen should be out.  I excluded canned fruit but included passata and frozen fruits and vegetables.  It seems non sensical that these could be bad and I'll wait for further research which the group have recommended.

So what do I recommend?

I would suggest a simpler message, like "include fruits or vegetables in every meal".  If 5 a day is not being achieved by 80% of the population, it's unlikely 7 will but every step closer is a good idea.  The key has to be to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables every time they eat and to offer fruits and vegetables at every opportunity to their kids.

I posted about this over the whole week; if you want to read back over it all please take a look:

7 a Day Challenge introduction
7 a Day Challenge Day 1
7 a Day Challenge Day 2
7 a Day Challenge Day 3
7 a Day Challenge Day 4
7 a Day Challenge Day 5
7 a Day Challenge Day 6

Please comment and let me know your experiences with 7 a day!

I would be absolutely honoured if you would consider nominating me in the Britmums BIB awards, especially the food category.



  1. Just like you i've also been working on 7-a-day for the last week. Sad to say but I'm really starting to get bored of it. I've been having porridge most mornings with a couple of servings of fruit an then lots of my evening meals have been vegetable based dishes. It takes lots of careful planning in order to make sure you're getting the correct quote (80g per portion I do believe) Soup has to be the best way to eat more vegetables. Like you I also found I had to shop twice in one week which I wasn't happy about. Fresh strawberries only last about two days tops! I do live on a tight budget but was willing to spend more to have a go at this 7-a-day myself. I have various frozen veg' just now - okra, green beans, sweetcorn and peas. I also have some frozen raspberries too which I had one morning with some tinned lychees and a cheeky square of white chocolate all mixed with my porridge - delicious!!! I somehow can't see myself keeping this up for much longer. Too expensive and also getting a bit bored of my meals being fixated around fruit and vegetables.

    1. I know what you mean. When planning tea I had to start with "Which vegetables do I have?" and work from there.


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