achieving and maintaining good health, but while the fruit part is an easy task, vegetables are often left out because they never seem quite as appealing as, say, a bunch of grapes or juicy pear. Even thinking of vegetables can feel like a chore...
Besides, what is plenty? 5-a-day? 8-a-day? Or as much as you can physically manage?
Well, a portion of vegetables is 85g and, ideally, you should aim for at least three of those to begin with and then increase to as much as eight and then add 2-3 fruits to the bunch for optimum results. It may seem difficult at first, but as you progress, your taste buds and your body will learn to appreciate the natural flavours and, in fact, develop a kind of craving for all the goodness, crunchiness and yumminess as well as the rainbow of colours on your plate.
Keep it fun, creative and delicious - and here are a few simple ways to do it.
carrot, beetroot and kale recipes are to get you started.
Have some for breakfast. Not tempted? Well, it's all about the taste and presentation. Turn them into bell peppers and onion frittata, tomato or mushrooms omelette, a stuck made of wholegrain toast topped with cooked large portobello mushroom, slices of tomato and poached eggs, make eggs muffins, stick a few on top of a toasted rye bread or make a healthier version of Egg benedict - a wholegrain muffin, wilted spinach, poached egg, smoked salmon and a little home-made Hollandaise sauce. If all fails, have a glass of organic tomato juice or snack of a few cherry tomatoes.
Make soup. Pureed soups allow you to have at least two servings of vegetables effortlessly. Remember that potatoes won't count towards your vegetable intake, so go for the bright coloured options including bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach, peas, butternut squash, pumpkin, beetroot, carrots, sweet potatoes, aubergines, watercress, cauliflower, leek and broccoli. Remember about mushrooms. Play with spices and herbs. Add goats cream, silken tofu or a little goats cheese for a touch of indulgence. If you aren't into blending, try my 5-veg soup.
Re-think your favourite recipes. Pasta sauce doesn't have to be made with onion, garlic and tomatoes only - add spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, peas and carrots, all cooked in a delicious tomato base. I also add cooked mushrooms to meat balls and meat loaf (cook the mushrooms, blend into chunky paste first) or use them to make a topping for a roasted salmon (blend together frieda chestnut mushrooms and onion, add dry tarragon and a little grated parmesan, use to top up pieces of fish before baking). Cauliflower adds a special touch to a regular potato mash (or can be used as a subtitute). And don't forget about those stir-fries (pre-cooked brown rice, a few handfuls of chopped vegetables, a dash of tamari, a little miso, some prawns, tofu or cashew nuts and you have a meal - a bit like jazz, never the same - always wonderful)
Make dips and sandwich fillers. Loving your hummus or guacamole? Then toast bell peppers or butternut squash, blend and add to your old favourite. Brilliant as a snack or spread.
sauerkraut is another favourite of mine. Often when I am very short of time, carrot pieces, walnuts and a few raisins do the trick nicely.
The magic of a good salads. The most obvious. My suggestion is to have at least one salad-based meal a day because having raw vegetable is incredibly beneficial for the digestion, liver and natural detoxification. In addition to that, combining vegetables with oils will improve absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Keep some on a side. Cooking vegetables for your side dish allows you to have yet another couple of portions easily. Ratatouille, tagine and casseroles have always been my favourite options here. They can be prepared in large quantities in advance, refriregated for 3-4 days or frozen for up to a month. Otherwise I just steam some broccoli and then finish it with a little garlic butter and freshly grated black pepper.
Turn them into desserts. From smoothies, raw bars and pancakes to brownies and cakes, vegetables make a surprising and very tasty ingredient (I'll add a few recipes here shortly, so stay tuned).
I sincerely hope you are feeling hungry for vegetables right now.
Photo source: Natalia Vodianova photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia May 2005, other photos from my personal archives via Shutterstock