If your life keeps you on the run – working late, travelling often, always busy – it might seem hard to make sure you eat enough fruit and vegetables. But by making a few easy changes, you can fit 5 A Day into even the busiest schedule.
When you eat out, it can be hard to know exactly how much, if any, fruit and vegetables are in your food. For example, fast-food meals often contain less fruit and vegetables (and more fat, sugar and salt) than the meals you'd cook for yourself.
All that can mean trouble when it comes to getting your 5 A Day. But a few easy habits and a little planning ahead can help you increase the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat.
Adding a 5 A Day portion
Dietitian Azmina Govindji has helped many time-pressed professionals fit 5 A Day into their lifestyle.
"Changing your diet is a matter of acquiring a new habit," she says. "When you eat out or eat a ready meal, you're less in control of what's going into that food.
"Get into the habit of asking: what can I do that will add at least one portion of fruit or vegetables to this meal?"
For example, if you have a ready meal for dinner (ideally this will only happen occasionally as many are high in fat and salt), add some vegetables on the side, Azmina advises.
"It can be as simple as opening a can of sweetcorn to put on the side. Just remember your question: 'What can I do to add a portion of fruit or vegetables?'."
Once you get into that habit, says Azmina, you'll find it can be applied in many different situations.
5 A Day at breakfast
You could slice fruit over your cereal or just grab a banana before you leave the house. If your breakfast is scrambled eggs, add some grilled mushrooms or tomatoes.
5 A Day snacks
Take apples, clementines, pears or satsumas to work to snack on. Or why not have some carrot or celery sticks with reduced-fat hummus?
This requires a little forward planning. Think about what you want to take to work and buy it the next time you do your shopping.
5 A Day at a sandwich bar for lunch
Can you add extra salad to your sandwich, roll or baguette? And have some fruit or a fresh, unsweetened 100% fruit juice for dessert.
5 A Day in a restaurant
Can you order a starter, side vegetable or salad, or add an extra ingredient – to a pizza, for example – that will count as one portion?
Check the menu for starters and sides, and don't be afraid to ask if the chef can add steamed vegetables to a dish or fruit to a pudding. Instead of ordering chips, ask for a fresh salad or some roasted vegetables.
5 A Day when ordering a takeaway
How can you add a portion to a takeaway? If you have a Chinese takeaway, for example, add stir-fried vegetables. When ordering a pizza, ask for extra mushrooms on top to help towards your 5 A Day. If you're having a curry, order a vegetable side dish.
Be aware that some vegetable dishes may be high in fat. Dishes that come in a tomato or vegetable-based sauce are usually lower in fat than cream or cheese-based sauces. Steamed vegetables are normally lower in fat than fried vegetables.
Most takeaways and other fast foods contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar, so only have them occasionally or in small amounts as part of a balanced diet.
5 A Day when eating out
Why not order a salad filled with a variety of vegetables for your main course, and ask for either a lower-fat dressing or for the dressing to be on the side so you can add less?
How will you add one portion of fruit and vegetables to food on the run? Make that question part of your daily routine and you'll soon hit your 5 A Day target.