5 A DAY and your family

Do you cook and shop for a family household, including a fussy eater or two?

It’s easier than you might think to ensure everyone gets five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. There are many ways to introduce more fruit and vegetables into your family’s diet. The wider the variety of fruit and vegetables you eat the better. Dietitian Azmina Govindji gives a few simple tips and ideas to get you started.

Fruit and veg throughout the day

There are plenty of 5 A DAY opportunities throughout your family’s day.

“Not all those opportunities are immediately obvious,” says Azmina. “A cooked breakfast, for example, can give you several portions if you have grilled mushrooms, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and a glass of unsweetened 100% fruit juice.”

Azmina highlights some other 5 A DAY opportunities:

Breakfast – if you have cereal or porridge for breakfast, add some fruit, such as sliced bananas, strawberries or sultanas.
Morning break at school – all children aged between four and six at Local Education Authority-maintained schools are entitled to one free piece of fruit or vegetable a day, which is usually given out at break time. If your child is older, you could send them to school with a piece of fruit to eat at break time. The School Food Regulations ensure that fruit or vegetables are provided at all school food outlets, including breakfast clubs, tuck shops and vending machines.
Lunchtime at school – a school lunch provides your child with a portion of fruit and a portion of vegetables. If you give your child a packed lunch, there are many ways you can add fruit and vegetables. Dried fruit counts towards their 5 A DAY, so why not try a handful of sultanas or a few dried apricots? Put salad in their sandwiches, or give them carrot or celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, satsumas or seedless grapes. A lot of swapping goes on at lunch, so talk to other parents to see if you can all give your children at least one portion.
On the way home from school – at home time, kids are often very hungry. Take this opportunity to give them a fruit or vegetable snack. This could be a small handful of dried fruit, a banana, a pear, clementines or carrot sticks. When they’re really hungry, this can be a good time to get them to try foods they might otherwise refuse.
Dinner time – get into the habit of having two different vegetables on the dinner table. You don’t have to insist that the children eat them, but if you always do, they may end up trying them. Vegetables in dishes such as stews and casseroles also count. Avoid adding extra fat, salt and sugar, and use lean cuts of meat.

Plan 5 A DAY snacks

When it comes to snacks, it pays to plan ahead. “Think about times when snacking happens in your family,” says Azmina. “Then think what you can do to replace your usual snack with fruit or vegetables.”

Making fruit and veg easy to get to is often helpful. When they’re peckish, children will often reach for whatever is closest to hand. Keep a fruit bowl in the living room. Encourage your children to snack from the bowl rather than hunting for snacks in the kitchen. Keep fruit washed and ready to eat in the fridge. They’ll be more tempting when you fancy an instant snack.
Similarly, keep snack-ready vegetables in the fridge, too. Wash and cut up carrots or celery. Family days out are prime snacking time. Save money by taking small bags of dried fruit, bananas or carrot, celery or pepper sticks with you instead of buying expensive snacks once you’re out.

Get children involved in 5 A DAY
Getting your child involved in choosing and preparing fruit and vegetables can encourage them to eat more. “Familiarise young children with the colours and shapes of fruits and vegetables as early as possible,” says Azmina.

“Each weekly shop, let them choose a fruit or vegetable they’d like to try. Supervise your child in the kitchen while they help you prepare it.”

Present your children with as wide a variety of fruit and vegetables as possible and make eating them a normal part of family life.

“If your children aren’t keen, canned vegetables, such as sweetcorn, lentils and peas, can be a good place to start,” says Azmina. Choose canned vegetables in water with no added sugar, and canned fruit in natural fruit juice, rather than syrup.

Disguising vegetables, by grating carrots into bolognese sauce, for example, can also work, but don’t rely solely on this.

“Try not to reinforce the idea that vegetables are unpleasant and always need to be hidden in foods. Instead, have fun together by trying lots of different fruit and veg and finding what your children like.”

Courtesy of NHS Choices

Inactivity 'kills more than obesity'

A lack of exercise could be killing twice as many people as obesity in Europe, a 12-year study of more than 300,000 people suggests. University of Cambridge researchers said about 676,000 deaths each year were down to inactivity, compared with 337,000 from carrying too much weight. They concluded that getting everyone to do at least 20 minutes of brisk walking a day would have substantial benefits. Experts said exercise was beneficial for people of any weight. Obesity and inactivity often go hand in hand.

However, it is known that thin people have a higher risk of health problems if they are inactive. And obese people who exercise are in better health than those that do not. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, attempted to tease out the relative dangers of inactivity and obesity.

Obese v inactive
Researchers followed 334,161 Europeans for 12 years. They assessed exercise levels and waistlines and recorded every death. “The greatest risk [of an early death] was in those classed inactive, and that was consistent in normal weight, overweight and obese people,” one of the researchers, Prof Ulf Ekelund told BBC News. He said eliminating inactivity in Europe would cut mortality rates by nearly 7.5%, or 676,000 deaths, but eliminating obesity would cut rates by just 3.6%. Prof Ekelund added: “But I don’t think it’s a case of one or the other. We should also strive to reduce obesity, but I do think physical activity needs to be recognised as a very important public health strategy.”

Prof Ekelund, who is based in Norway, is into cross country skiing and clocks up at least five hours of vigorous exercise each week. However, he says all it would need to transform health, is brisk walking.

“I think people need to consider their 24-hour day. Twenty minutes of physical activity, equivalent to a brisk walk, should be possible for most people to include on their way to or from work, or on lunch breaks, or in the evening instead of watching TV.”

Tackle Both
The diseases caused by inactivity and obesity were largely the same, such as cardiovascular disease. However, type 2 diabetes was more common with obesity. Commenting on the findings, Barbara Dinsdale, from the charity Heart Research UK, said: “This study once again reinforces the importance of being physically active, even when carrying excess weight.

“Changing your lifestyle is all good news for heart health, but physical activity is always easier to achieve and maintain without carrying the extra ‘body baggage’ of too much weight.”

Prof John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said changes were needed to make exercise easier.

“We need substantial investment in cycling infrastructure to make our streets safer. If more people cycled or walked to work or school, it would make a big difference in raising levels of physical activity.”

Courtesy of BBC News

Early death risk reduced by 20-minute daily walk

Lack of exercise leaves a person at greater risk of early death than does being obese, according to a study published this evening. And it could take little more than a daily 20-minute walk to reduce the death toll due to inactivity. A huge study of more than 334,000 European men and women showed that twice as many deaths were connected with lack of physical activity compared to being obese.

The Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society have for years pointed out the value of exercise as a way to reduce risk of heart disease and cancer. This study led by Prof Ulf Ekelund of the University of Cambridge seems to underpin the value of this advice. The research aim was to measure the link between physical inactivity and premature death, while also assessing its interaction with obesity. The 334,161 men and women involved are participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study. The researchers measured these individuals’ height, weight and waist circumference over a 12-year period and also asked them about their levels of physical activity. The results are published this evening in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers found the greatest reduction in risk was between inactive and moderately inactive groups. Almost a quarter of the cohort were inactive with no recreational activity and a sedentary job.

A daily 20-minute brisk walk was enough to lift this inactive group into the lower risk moderately inactive group. This reduced their risk from premature death by between 16-30 per cent.
“This isn’t surprising,” said Maureen Mulvihill, head of health promotion at the Irish Heart Foundation. Lack of exercise ranks fourth for risk of death behind high blood pressure, smoking and blood glucose levels and ahead of obesity, she said.

“Also more people are inactive than obese with 23 per cent of people in Ireland obese but more than 50 per cent inactive, she said. The Foundation recommends people take between 150 and 300 minutes a week of moderately intensive activity. This includes walking, gardening, cycling, climbing stairs or dancing. There is no need to be heavily into running or other sports to achieve these levels.
“The take home message is get up and get moving and all activity has a health benefit,” Ms Mulvihill said. It will reduce risk of heart disease by 30 per cent and the reduction in stroke risk is even higher, she added.

Exercise also helps reduce cancer risks, said Kevin O’Hagan, health promotion manager at the Irish Cancer Society. “There is clear evidence to tell us that physical activity and exercise can reduce the risk of breast, bowel and womb cancer. It may also help prevent lung cancer,” he said. Being physically active along with eating a healthy diet and not smoking can help reduce the risk of cancer by up to 50 per cent, he added. It is estimated that 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity offers the greatest protection against cancer.

Courtesy of Irish Times