Monday, 18 July 2016

7 fruits and vegetables a day for 7 days - What did I learn?

The challenge

I'm now at the end of my experiment to eat 7 different fruits and vegetables in the UK Government recommended portion sizes (at least 80g) for 7 days.  In this I only counted fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses (for one portion a day) and frozen fruits and vegetables.

How did it go?

It really depended on what I had for breakfast.  If I could squeeze three portions of fruit and vegetables into breakfast, the rest of the day was much simpler.  On day 2 when I only managed one at breakfast time, the whole day felt like I was on catch up.

What were the high points?

There were a couple of meals in there I truly loved, the pasta with fresh tomato sauce was a revelation and despite eating it a lot, my Skyr Breakfast Bowl was just lovely.

What were the low points?

I had to do a lot more shopping for produce than I normally would.  Also for the first time in about a year, I managed to accidentally let some chicken go off in my fridge.  I don't eat a lot of meat but with this challenge my meat consumption has gone down further and I just forgot to freeze it.  So for this week it has been costly but once you adapted to it you would probably save money.

If you looked over the whole week, I had 1 meal with meat in it and 3 meals with fish.  This is pretty low when you think about it and makes me wonder why, early in the week I felt a little tired?

The impact on my body

By day 3, looking in the mirror I felt a bit more svelte but I convinced myself that it was both early days and I'd eaten a doughnut the day before so weight loss was unlikely.

I also found myself tired on day 3 and struggling to motivate myself to exercise.  Looking back at my diet that morning, I decided to take an iron supplement.  Although quantities aren't likely to drop in my body overnight, it seemed sensible to counteract the reduction in iron in my diet due to the reduction in meat.

I wouldn't normally weigh myself over a week because your weight can fluctuate but I did lose 1.5lbs without really trying to lose weight which is interesting.

What are my thoughts?

Well it is obvious that the quantity of fruit and vegetables is large.  Apart from watermelon which I have a seemingly insatiable appetite for, eating over half a kilo of vegetables and fruit a day is a lot.  It leaves little room for meat, fish or starchy carbohydrates.  This makes me wonder if the health benefits of 7 a day are more about what you don't eat than what you do.

I also thought my diet would be more varied and there are two recipes I expected to make but didn't, one was a smoothie like this yogurt and oat smoothie which I could have easily increased the fruit to two portions?  Or this gazpacho which contains about 3 of your 7 a day, but every time I thought of it, I'd already eaten the ingredients earlier.

Will I keep it up?

I have to admit I've tried a similar challenge in the past and thought I had kept it up.  This has been a good "reboot" to see that my habits had slipped and, in fact, on many days, I was missing out on 5 a day before.

I think the quantity is probably most likely to slip.  Will it really matter if I have 50g of salad rather than 80g?  I will certainly drop the scales and not miss them.  I don't think there is much point obsessing if I've had 70g of strawberries vs. 80g.  From now on I will go with "a handful", I will try to keep the variety going though.

One thing which would be challenging is in late winter when fresh fruits and vegetables, certainly locally grown ones are thin on the ground.  I would struggle to eat seasonally and locally while trying to maintain 7 a day.  In fact, I would probably say it can't be done without having a very boring diet rich in every form of brassica and root vegetable you can lay your hands on (except potatoes which of course don't count.)  It would seem pointless from the "variety" point of view to be eating cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale every day and counting them as 3 different vegetables when really, they're kind of the same.

To read every day of my journey, take a look here:

Why am I eating 7 fruits and vegetables a day?
Day 1 of 7 a day
Day 2 of 7 a day
Day 3 of 7 a day
Day 4 of 7 a day
Day 5 of 7 a day
Day 6 of 7 a day
Day 7 of 7 a day


  1. I like the idea of getting as much in at breakfast as possible. Smoothies for breakfast sounds most appealing. I have got out of the habit but I will give my blender another go. Thanks for an interesting read.

    1. Thank you. I think the reputation of smoothies has taken a slightly unfair knocking. Although I did once see one being made with ice cream! Not good. And the preprepared ones aren't going to have as many goodies as a home made fresh smoothie. That said, it is really a light meal rather than a drink in my eyes or a filling snack.


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