by Gael Myers, Accredited Practising Dietitian

Assorted vegetables

It sounds crazy: a recent report has found that if Aussies ate just 10 per cent more vegetables it could save the health care system millions – $100 million to be precise. The report also found a staggering $1 billion could be saved if intake was bumped up to recommended levels.  

More than 90 per cent of adults in Australia don’t eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day. A closer look at the numbers reveals that women are much more likely to meet the guidelines than men; with just over 10 per cent of women getting their five a day compared to less than four per cent of males.

A diet low in vegetables puts you at increased risk of a number of conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and cancers of the mouth and throat. Vegetables are nutrient dense and low in energy, meaning they not only help keep your body healthy, they are good for your waistline too.  

While aiming for five serves of vegetables each day will give the biggest benefit, this report shows that even small increases in vegetable intake could lead to a healthier Australia.

On average, Australian adults are eating 2.3 serves of vegetables each day, or about half the recommended levels. A 10 per cent increase means just two extra serves per week, with a serve of vegetables equal to one cup of raw veg or half a cup of cooked veg. In practical terms, this means that just one extra cup of cooked broccoli each week could be enough to improve the health of the population. 

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If you find the idea of eating five serves of vegetables each day overwhelming, starting with a small increase is a great first step. We know that making small incremental improvements to your diet is the key to making these changes stick for the long term.

Not sure where to start? Try some of these tips for squeezing more vegetables into your day:

  1. Try meatless Mondays. Make vegies the star of the show for one day each week. Double points if you can include a plant based source of protein like beans, peas, lentils or tofu. For tasty vegetarian recipe ideas, try some of these.
  2. Boost your breakfast. Do you usually go for toast in the morning? Try adding some avocado and sliced tomato. Prefer scrambled eggs or an omelette? Throw in some frozen spinach, diced capsicum and corn.

  3. Add extra vegies to stir-fries, pizza, burgers, soups and casseroles. Throw an extra tin of beans into soups, a handful more diced veg on your pizza, or send your burger sky high with extra salad. Small regular additions like these can really add up.
  4. Pimp my side. Serve hot meals with a side salad or steamed vegies.
  5. Vegetables by stealth. Sneak grated carrot, zucchini, celery and squash into pasta sauce, patties and pikelets.
  6. Dip into vegies. Vegetable sticks and dip are the perfect combo for a mid-morning snack or afternoon pick me up. Chop up carrots, celery, capsicum and cucumber at the start of the week and store in an air tight container with a damp paper towel. Having healthy snacks on hand will make it easier to reach for the right choice when the hunger cravings hit.

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Including a few extra serves of vegetables each week is an achievable and worthwhile aim for most Australians. Not only will you be doing your health a favour, you could also be helping to save the Australian health care system millions.

If you're looking to challenge yourself to eat more fruit and veg this Fruit and Veg September, check out our Challenge Calendar for a handy tool to keep track and some great tips.

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