Remember when health experts told us to eat five-a-day? Five fruits or vegetables a day, to improve health, prevent heart disease and cancer, and bring peace and prosperity to the land (or something like that).
Now they say we should really be eating eight—and that every serving of fruit or veg we add to our diet, even if it's not eight, will reduce our risk for heart disease by 4 percent.
Most people don't even get five portions of fruit or veg a day. (A portion counts as 80 grams, about one apple, one small banana, or one small carrot.) In fact, only 32 percent of American adults eat fruit two or more times a day (2009 figures) and a mere 26 percent eat vegetables three or more times a day. I eat nothing but plant foods, yet I don't always eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day (unless popcorn counts as a veg).
So I've been thinking a lot lately about how to add more vegetables to my diet. This time of year I almost always have a root vegetable or two (or ten) in my vegetable bin. Roasting is still my favorite way to eat them, but there's only so many times I can set a platter of roasted parsnips in front of my husband before he'll sneak off to the frozen french fry aisle at Tesco.
The other night I had a Savoy cabbage in the fridge, half a swede (rutabaga) and my favorite British potatoes in the bin. Mashed potatoes, with skins removed, aren't very nutritious, but they're one of my favorite things to eat. But they can be a lot more nutritious when cooked with a root vegetable, which adds phytonutrients as well as fiber.
Here's what I did: I cut up some potatoes and the swede, boiled them together, and steamed the cabbage separately. Then I mashed the potato and swede in the same bowl with a potato masher, added some plain soy yogurt, some margarine, and stirred in the cabbage. I placed this mixture in a baking dish, baked it for 20 minutes at around 375F, and ended up with several of my eight servings right in the same dish. I served some sliced carrots on the side, too, but I noticed I was the only one eating them. (My husband has an aversion to orange food. I made him eat double portions of the potato/cabbage mixture.) If this reminds you of the famous British dish Bubble and Squeak, well, guilty as charged.
Despite the name, the dish was delicious, but I didn't take a photo. (It looked nice, really, especially served in a pretty Portmerion baking dish.) But then, this post is really only about giving you ideas for incorporating eight vegetables into your daily diet.
Don't have a swede? Use turnips, carrots, celeraic, or any root vegetable you have. Don't have Savoy cabbage? Use any green, including spinach. If you've got picky eaters in the family, chances are they won't notice anything other than the mashed potato—you can start small, if need be, only adding one turnip, or one small carrot to the mash.
For more information, check out the National Fruit and Vegetable Program's website. This chart of what constitutes a serving is really handy. And oh, look: an ear of corn is one serving...that's like a bowl of popcorn, isn't it?