Ten portions of fruit and veg a day - just how much veg should kids eat?

Focus on variety rather than how much your kids are actually consuming says nutritionist Alice Fotheringham

Focus on variety rather than how much your kids are actually consuming says nutritionist Alice Fotheringham

By now you’ve probably heard the news. Five a day is old hat, redundant, frankly not enough. Yep, that’s right. We should all be eating TEN portions of fruit and veg a day. Oh and don’t forget that the majority of your ten a day should be veg. So having two large fruit smoothies a day isn’t going to cut it. Sorry.

If this is news to you, you can read more in this article that I wrote for metro.co.uk, which also includes some simple tips for how you can up your fruit and veg intake. 

Now if your family is anything like mine the possibility of actually getting your child to eat ten portions of fruit and veg a day is laughable. When I told my almost seven year old about the change in guidance he cried. Yep, he knew that he didn’t ever eat five a day and he was cool with that. But ten a day? Now that’s just too much pressure.

Could you get your kids to eat ten a day? Faye from Baby Led Blog tried with great (if exhausting) results

I found that most of the news stories and advice around this new guidance focused on adults and I had a lot of questions about how this relates to kids. An adult sized portion is roughly 80g - meaning that we need 800g a day of fruit and veg a day to be healthy. To give you a little perspective, if you ate the contents of the photograph above you would have way more than 800g a day - the carrots weigh 120g, the broccoli 465g - even that little bunch of grapes weighs 96g.

But how much do kids need? Surely not 800g a day? And what about different sized kids - a two year old is different to a seven year old - yet my toddler eats WAY more fruit and veg than my older son.

Little S always loves unpacking our vegetables - but will he eat them?

Little S always loves unpacking our vegetables - but will he eat them?

After many wasted hours spent trawling the internet I decided to bite the bullet and ask a nutritionist just how much veg kids should be eating. I spoke to Alice Fotheringham, the very lovely infant nutrition specialist at Piccolo, the organic baby food range.

As you'd expect from someone whose day job is making baby food she had rather a lot of useful stuff to say. 

“Whilst any promotion of eating more vegetables and fruit can only be a good thing, a lot of people find it hard to get in their five a day, so the new research suggesting we need to get more in might actually make families more discouraged than inspired to eat more fruit and veg. A good way to ‘digest’ this research is perhaps to look at it in terms of variety – the more variety the better. If you can start the day with some fruit or even a bit of veg in a smoothie, and make it a habit to include a couple of vegetables with lunch and dinner, you are getting a good range in without having to change your eating habits too dramatically. You could also serve a small salad before, or with every dinner – Mediterranean style!

“It shouldn’t be a chore, no one wants to have to remember to count how many pieces of fruit or vegetables you have had each day. Try starting small by adding one extra vegetable to one of your meals, and work up from there. By making simple additions that are easy to do, you can start forming a habit. It is also a good idea to think about the range of different fruits and vegetables you have over the week. Getting in a wide variety of colours throughout the week is a much more realistic way than a fixed number a day, you will hopefully find the numbers stack up without having to think about it.”

So eat the rainbow then - lots of different colours and lots of variety. I love what Alice says about not wanting to count up what you’ve had each day and I think her advice makes it seem more realistic.

But I was still wondering about this portion size issue. So I went back to Alice again (sorry Alice!) and she advised me not to get too fixated on a portion size - it’s far better to think about variety. However, she then went on to say:

“If you really want to follow a portion size, I quite like the visual tool of going by the size of your palm. So, your toddler's palm is a sort of portion size, and your seven year old's is a little bigger etc. So for loose leafy veg like spinach or salad, only a leaf would fit in their palm, so it’s not a perfect guide, but a little pot of salad that fits in your little one’s hand would be more realistic. But as a tool and a fun way to engage your children into having a portion, it’s quite a nice way of working it that isn’t intimidating and doesn’t involve using the scales!“ 

To be honest with you I'm still worrying about the long term effect that not eating anywhere near enough fruit or veg will have on R's health but I will just carry on doing what I do and hoping for a change in the future!

Here are some of my favourite sneaky veg recipes if you need a little helping hand to get the good stuff into your kids.

Hidden vegetable recipes

The ultimate sneaky veg sauce
Simple curry sauce with hidden spinach
Easy pizza swirls
Macaroni cheese with three hidden vegetables
Butternut squash cheese straws
Carrot cake bircher muesli
Sweet potato pancakes

Hidden fruit recipes

Because yes, some kids don't like fruit either!

Apple and cinnamon flapjacks
Healthy raspberry jam tarts
Raspberry cashew oaty bites
Apricot energy balls

How much veg do kids need to get their ten a day