Why are we still avoiding our vegetables?

Veggie shy brits are not eating their 5-a-day, despite the campaign launching over 10 years ago. A survey of 2,222 adults by YouGov in December 2013 found that only 10% of those surveyed ate their 5 or more a day. Regionally, 13% in the East of England met their 5-a-day versus the North East and South West where only 6% met the requirements. More worryingly, across the UK 6% ate no vegetables at all, with the worst offenders living in the North East (11%) and Scotland (9%). The lowest was London where 3% ate no vegetables at all. The survey also indicated that you were more likely to consume vegetables the older you got – 7% of 18-24 year olds consumed 5 or more portions of vegetables a day, rising to 11% of over 55’s. It also showed that only 4% of students consumed 5-a-day compared to 10% of those who work.

Why are we not eating our vegetables? A 2012 study on low-income families in Chicago, published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition found that the determinant to eating the recommended levels of fruit and vegetables wasn’t price but convenient access to quality produce. For many that isn’t the problem though. It’s easy to grab an apple or banana as a snack but grabbing a handful of sliced carrots, broccoli florets or celery takes a little more time. Eating a plateful of steamed vegetables may not appeal to everyone and maybe the memories of being sat at the dinner table as a child fighting to eat the last cold carrot on the plate before you could leave the table don’t help. Even those who choose to become vegetarians can struggle with how to enjoy eating more vegetables, after all they aren’t as sweet as fruit.

Whatever the reason, it’s important that vegetables are eaten daily. They can be raw, cooked or frozen. If you don’t like them plain, add some gently fried onions and garlic, ginger, olive oil, salt and pepper or soy sauce. Eat small amounts and sneak them into your favourite meals. Dip them in hummus or guacamole or add some frozen spinach to soups or baby tomatoes to an omelette and have a side salad when you can. And always have a packet of frozen peas in the freezer as these can be added to almost any meal. You may be surprised to find you might start liking vegetables. As Tesco says ‘every little helps‘!

1) YouGov Online Survey, sample 2,222 British adults, fieldwork 11th-13th December 2013,   2)  Blitstein et al. (2012) Perceptions of the food shopping environment are associated with greater consumption of fruits and vegetables. Public Health Nutrition.

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