Blog 2 by Nina Mills on food groups and serve sizes – fruits and veggies

Welcome to Part 2 in this series of posts on the different food groups and what is considered a healthy amount to eat. In the last post we covered off the ‘meat’ and ‘dairy’ groups (they are not called that anymore by the way!) and the grains group was discussed in an earlier post by Sally.

So that leaves us with fruit and veggies. These are two food groups where you can take the brakes off when it comes to being vigilant about making sure what you are eating is gluten free as fresh fruit and vegetables are all naturally gluten free! Of course if you are buying processed fruit and vegetables (like frozen potato wedges or yoghurt with fruit pieces), or you are eating out, you should always to check to make sure there is no hidden gluten or cross contamination.

Fruit

When it comes to fruit, eating the whole fruit is a much better option than getting fruit in a juiced form. Eating a whole piece of fruit means you don’t miss out on any of the fibre or other nutrients that can be left behind when a piece of fruit is juiced. Eating a whole piece of fruit is also much more substantial than sipping on a juice and is more filling which helps to satisfy hunger. You can see in the image below that fruit juice and dried fruit are recommended only occasionally and this is due to their high sugar content.

For the most part, it is pretty simple working out what a serve of fruit is. If you eat a whole apple, banana, orange or pear, you have eaten a serve of fruit. It gets a little trickier when the piece of fruit is small (like plums or apricots) or is a type of fruit that you don’t eat by the ‘piece’ (like strawberries, blueberries and grapes). The following are also considered to be one serve of fruit:

  • 2 small plums
  • 2 small apricots
  • 2 small kiwi fruit
  • 2 small mandarins
  • 7-8 strawberries (or 4 if they are those giant ones you sometimes get!)
  • 1 punnet of blueberries
  • 1 small bunch of grapes (150g in weight)
  • 1 cup of canned fruit (in natural juice is the best option as this is lower in sugar)

How big is a serve?

 Fruit

How many serves should I be eating?

Fruit serves

Vegetables and Legumes / Beans

OK, this food group is a big deal! If there is one food group that we should be eating more from, it is this one. So why do we harp on so much about eating vegetables? Because if there was ever a magic bullet to good health, it would be through eating your veggies! Vegetables are associated with decreased risk of developing certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and stroke. They are packed full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients making them nutrient dense, but they are low in energy which means you can eat lots without having to worry about your waistline. In fact the more veggies you eat, the more likely it is that you will feel satisfied and less inclined to go foraging for less nutritious, higher energy snacks later on. Legumes and beans are also a welcome addition to your meals as they too are full of fibre to keep you full and have anti-cancer properties associated with them. Here’s a link to a blog Sally wrote recently called ‘Learning to Love Legumes’.

When it comes to potato, sweet potato and sweet corn it is worth noting that HALF a MEDIUM sized potato or sweet potato, and half a cup of sweetcorn is considered to be one serve. This is because they are higher in energy (mostly carbohydrate energy, so good energy) compared with other vegetables. When it comes to serving these starchy vegetables on a plate, they are considered to be the same as rice and pasta and should only take up one quarter of your plate or comprise of two serves.

Healthy Eating Plate

Half of your plate should then be made up of a wide variety of colourful, non-starchy vegetables.

And in order to achieve 5 serves a day, it’s a great idea to try to include your veggies across the day.  Here are a few simple ideas to fit more in as you go, rather than get to dinner and realise you’ve still got 4-5 to go!

Breakfast – baked beans on toast, sliced tomato and/or pan-fried mushrooms on toast with baby spinach, or an omelette packed full of veggies and legumes

omelette cooked

Lunch – salad in bowl or on a sandwich, frittata packed with vegetables, cold roasted vegetables or ratatouille.

avocado green salad

Snacks – hummous dip with veggie sticks for dipping, cherry tomatoes (or ‘bursts’ as they explode with flavour into your mouth).  Of course, there are many more options too!

How big is a serve?

 Vegetables

How many serves should I be eating?

Vegetable serves

If you are still unsure about what a serve of fruit and veggies looks like, you can check out this article from The Kitchn which offers some more pictures of serving sizes. Note that these are based on the American Dietary Guidelines, not our guidelines, but they are similar.

Want some gluten free vegetable recipe inspiration? Check out these recipes:

So I hoped this series of posts has helped you get a better idea of the types of foods that belong in each of the food groups and just how much we should be eating for good health. All of this information is freely available on the Eat For Health website. We recommend consulting with an Accredited Practising Dietitian, especially if you have particular dietary requirements that make following these guidelines difficult or if you would like personalised healthy eating advice.

Hoping these ideas lead you on to healthier and happier living! Nina 🙂

Nina Mills is a university qualified Nutritionist, health writer and most importantly, a lover of good food! She aims to help people develop healthy relationships with food without the need for diets, restrictions or kilojoule counting. You can connect with her on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

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