Summer is a great time to boost your intake of fresh fruit and seasonal vegetables.
It's also a good time to consider this - the recommendation to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day is a minimum. The French are advised to eat up to eight portions a day while the Japanese aim for an impressive 10 to 12, explains nutritional therapist Heather Leeson, who runs Glenville Nutrition clinic courses in Dublin, Cork and Galway.
"Unfortunately, in Ireland most of us don’t even eat the minimum 400g recommended by the World Health Organisation," she says. However, that can all change this summer!
Most people find it easy to eat fruit but are less inclined to eat their greens. However, says Heather, salads don’t have to be time-consuming or expensive to make. They can be made in a few minutes from store-cupboard or freezer ingredients with some fresh leaves or vegetables from the fridge.
Here are some of her top tips to help you fill your summer diet with nutritionally rich fruit and veg:
Check out these simple and tasty salads
* Salads are so much more than lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Try pepping up a salad with finely sliced fennel, whole or finely sliced sugar snap peas and sliced asparagus and avocado. Place in a bowl, season and toss with a simple vinaigrette.
* Roast vegetable salad. Roughly chop some courgettes, onions, peppers and aubergines and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Serve warm or cold tossed in vinaigrette and topped with feta cheese.
* Rocket, beetroot, lentil and goat's cheese salad: Place 2 large handfuls of rocket in a bowl. Add in 3 or 4 vacuum-packed beetroot, roughly sliced, and 3 or 4 tablespoons of cooked puy lentils. Toss with a simple vinaigrette and top with a little goat's cheese. Serves two.
* Lemony green-bean salad: mix the zest and juice of a lemon with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil or camelina oil and 2 teaspoons of good mustard to make a tangy dressing. Steam 2 large handfuls of frozen green beans for a couple of minutes until just cooked but still firm. Drain, toss in the dressing and allow to cool. Serve sprinkled with toasted, flaked almonds alongside some grilled or baked fish.
* Mixed bean salad: place a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, some sliced celery, ½ cucumber, diced, and a tin of mixed beans in a bowl. Toss with vinaigrette, season and sprinkle with fresh parsley or coriander.
* Another great way to eat more vegetables is to prepare some raw vegetables to eat as a snack with a healthy dip like hummus. Use sugar snap peas, peppers, carrot sticks, celery or cucumber and prepare enough for two or three days at a time.
* Make salads even tastier by adding some toasted nuts or seeds for added crunch, nutrition and flavour. You can toast your own seeds at 160oC in the oven for a few minutes.
* Try to make your own simple dressing instead of using a packaged dressing or mayonnaise. Just mix 1 tablespoon of acid (eg lemon juice, white wine or cider vinegar) with 3 tablespoons of oil such as extra virgin or omega-3 rich camelina oil. For a honey-mustard version, just add in 1-2 teaspoons of mustard and 1 teaspoon of honey. Or simplest of all, just mix 1 tablespoon of good balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
* Stock up on some store-cupboard essentials to make salads even better, such as jars of roast peppers, artichokes, olives (save the oil to make dressings), tins of butterbeans, cannellini beans, chickpeas or mixed beans, tinned wild salmon, mackerel or sardines, nuts and seeds.
Fresh fruit makes a delicious healthy dessert or snack. Berries are a summer favourite and are full of helpful nutrients. They are a lower-glycemic-index fruit, so they won't upset your blood-sugar balance.
Check out some of these tips for adding lots of tasty fruit to your summer menu
* Try sprinkling strawberries on your cereal for breakfast or have a large handful of raspberries or blueberries and some nuts as a healthy snack.
* For a healthy dessert, mash ½ punnet raspberries and ½ punnet of strawberries or blueberries into a rough purée with a fork. Place some of the purée in the bottom of two glasses, then top with a tablespoon of natural yoghurt mixed with a little vanilla extract. Repeat with another layer of each and top with some chopped berries and toasted flaked almonds.
* Make a healthy berry ice cream by blending together 2 cups of frozen berries, 4 tablespoons of natural yoghurt or canned coconut milk and a teaspoon of honey or Highbank Orchard apple syrup in a food processor. Serve straight away or freeze to use later.
With food that tastes as good as it sounds, let’s get ourselves fighting fit with the tastes of summer!
These healthy summer tips & recipes have been brought to you by GloHealth. GloHealth offer a range of family health insurance packages. Click here for more details
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