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How to know if you’re eating enough fruit and veg

21 October 2021 - 08:38
On average, South Africans eat only three servings of fruit and vegetables per day as opposed to the recommended five.
On average, South Africans eat only three servings of fruit and vegetables per day as opposed to the recommended five.
Image: 123RF/leonori

In a push to encourage South Africans to live healthier lives, National Nutrition Week runs every year in October.

Held in collaboration with the Department of Health, the Department of Basic Education and a number of organisations focused on health, it’s an annual nutrition awareness campaign.

This year’s campaign ran under the theme ‘Eat more vegetables and fruit every day’.

According to Terry Harris, a dietitian with Discovery Vitality, even though people know eating fruit and vegetables is important to live healthy lives, most people do not eat an adequate amount thereof on a daily basis.

“South Africans generally don’t get enough of the plant-based goodness we need to be optimally healthy. They only eat about three servings a day on average,” she says.

So how much is enough? The World Health Organisation recommends eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily. 

That's about 400g in total, explains Harris. “One serving is the equivalent of 80g but an easy way to work this out is to think of a fruit serving as the size of a clenched fist and a vegetable serving as two cupped hands.” 

Try Harris’ tips to incorporate more fresh fruit and veg in your diet:

  • Fruit servings do not include dried fruit or fruit juice. Vegetables include leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots ... everything really, except starchy vegetables such as potatoes and mealies.
  • Don’t forget about frozen veg and fruit. They are as healthy as their fresh counterparts yet yield no waste and are a handy backup to have in your freezer.
  • An easy way to incorporate fruit into your diet is to add fresh or frozen fruit to your breakfast. For example, adding strawberries or sliced pears to your morning porridge.
  • To add an extra serving of veg to your dinner, swap out standard noodles for zucchini, butternut or beetroot noodles or substitute rice for broccoli rice.
  • Be familiar with when fruit and veg are in season. They are more affordable and often tastier.