A recent study advising people to eat 10 or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day was met with scorn online but a team of Kiwi nutrition experts decided to put the feasibility of doing so to the test.
Six nutritionists from the Heart Foundation took on a two-week challenge to get 10 or more servings of fruit and vegetables into their diet every day and most found it was easier and cheaper than they expected.
Recent research by the Imperial College of London found that eating up to 800g of fruit and vegetables a day (10 servings) was associated with a 24 per cent reduction in the risk of heart disease; a 33 per cent reduction in the risk of a stroke; a 28 per cent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease; a 13 per cent reduction in the risk of cancer; and a 31 per cent reduction in premature death.
But statistics from the 2015/2016 New Zealand Health Survey showed most Kiwis fell short of the five-plus a day target. Only 40 per cent of New Zealanders ate three or more servings of vegetables and two or more servings of fruit each day.
Heart Foundation food and nutrition manager Dave Monro said he found it easier to hit the target some days than others.
"I found it far easier to meet the 10 serves on working days as I'm more planned and organised with what I'm eating while at work, and weekends tend to be unstructured," Monro said.
"I certainly felt full on days I met my goal."
Heart Foundation national nutrition advisor Angela Berrill said she found it relatively easy to meet the target as long as she remembered to include some fruit or vegetables at each meal and as snacks.
"One setback I found was that I'd sometimes get quite full, probably due to the high fibre content and couldn't always get past seven or eight serves without feeling like I was overeating ... If I was feeling full and satisfied after dinner, then I didn't include an additional serve of fruit or veges just to reach my goal of 10 serves."
Others said it quickly became something they did not have to think about while one found the only way he could consume enough was to eat five servings at breakfast which meant he did not have much of an appetite for the rest of the day.
They also found there was no extra cost because they were able to cut out snacks and other food they usually ate.
The whole team agreed it took planning and thinking ahead to ensure they included enough fruit and vegetables into their meals.
They suggested a stronger focus on salads and choosing fruit and vegetables as snacks.
Cauliflower rice, wraps, roast vegetable salads, vegetable fritters and including fruit with breakfast were all ways the team found helped them up their intake.
Five top tips for increasing your fruit and vegetables
1. Plan ahead for meals and snacks particularly work lunches. Try cooking extra vegetables with evening meals and use them as a basis for upcoming lunches, meals and snacks.
2. Choose vegetables from all the colours of the rainbow. Each colour provides a different range of nutrients. Try to place an emphasis on non-starchy vegetables.
3. Buy vegetables and fruit that are in season, consider canned, frozen and pre-packaged salad options to add variety.
4. If you need dressings to make vegetables exciting, then embrace it. Like anything, the trick is not to overdo it and drown your vegetables in the process.
5. Fritters, curries, stir-fries, mince, pasta sauces, lasagne, moussakas and wraps all provide great options for upping the vegetable intake.
Source: Heart Foundation New Zealand