Bowls of fruit and porridge

How hard is it really to get your 5-a-day?

Since starting university my health seems to have gone in waves; sometimes I try to eat healthily and get on well with a balanced diet and exercise but then work and other commitments get in the way and I fall off the healthy eating train in favour of convenience.

I also think it’s so much harder to eat healthy in the winter time when my favourite fruits are more expensive and not as tasty and all you really want is something quick and cosy to eat in the dark cold evenings.

But… I am a firm believer in a balanced diet with treats in moderation to get you through accompanied by some healthier options and good nutritious meals.

I’m going to include some of my favourite healthier alternatives or changes you can make to inject the well-needed health into your life, along with a recipe for a hearty, homely stew which also makes for a good soup if you’d prefer.

I used to think getting your five-a-day was very overwhelming but it’s really not and we might be closer to reaching the 7-a-day target that some scientists are thought to recommend. The best way to do this is to make sure you have at least one with every meal and at least one as a snack throughout the day. I’m going to talk you through an example diary of foods for one day with the fruit/veg counter in brackets increasing after each meal.

Breakfast: Smoothie or fruit juice and cereal with fruit on top- banana/strawberries/raisins (2)

Morning snack: Piece of fruit, can grab an apple/banana out of the fruit bowl if you don’t want to spend time preparing, pealing or chopped other fruits (3)

Lunch: Get a sandwich with vegetables/salad bits on and even though it might not be enough to class as one of your 5-a-day officially, I think it’s a half (3.5). Then have some fruit for your dessert and get rid of either crisps or chocolate- not both if you don’t want, you need something to get you through all this work we have to do (4.5)

Afternoon snack: nuts, healthy bars and crackers are good for this

Dinner: Now is an easy time to get two portions in, whatever you’re making add two portions of vegetables to get the extra health in. There’s so many frozen vegetables in the shops that are so easy to cook to accompany meals, I really like the bags of mixed veg with carrots, peas, green beans and sweetcorn in.

Supermarkets also have cool alternatives to the carb section of your meal- butternut squash slices for lasagne sheets, sweet potato instead of normal, ‘courgetti’ instead of spaghetti and cauliflower rice just to name a few; you can also use these as well as the pasta/rice if you don’t want to miss them from your meals.

Now you’re at least on 5 even if you don’t pick all of these ways to get fruit and vegetables in.

Doing this along with exercise and cutting back on other unhealthy extras in meals will set you right on your way to being healthy at university and it doesn’t cost a lot at all from the supermarkets around us.

Now for the stew, basically all you do is cut up a load of veg and put it in a big pan with some water and gravy granules/stock cube and leave it to simmer away; serve up in a bowl with some Hendersons relish on top and you’re good to go.

I like to make mine with potatoes, swede/turnip, carrots, parsnip, sweet potato and peas but I will cook the swede a little in some water first as these take the longest to cook. Cook them all in water first and then add the gravy granules near the end so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan! If you make enough to last a couple of days I always think the second day tastes so much nicer when all the flavours mix around some more and then you can freeze a portion or two for other days when you’re in a hurry. Then if you blend it up you have more of a soup which can be reheated for lunchtimes that are in need of a little warmth.