Article written by Annie Skidmore- BSc. Sport & Exercise Science Student
We all know how important meeting our 5-a-day is, but we also know that this can be hard particularly for the youth athlete who may not be a great fan of their fruit and vegetables.
It is essential that we have a balanced diet and that means eating our greens. So here is some more information on why we need to consume at least 5-a-day and easy ways this can be achieved, especially for the picky youth athlete.
THE IMPORTANCE OF 5-A-DAY
Making sure you have a balanced diet is essential. Less than 10% of most western populations have an adequate fruit and dietary fibre intake. The potential health benefits of consuming whole fruits include :
- Protected gastrointestinal health
- Long-term weight management
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Improved ageing
- Reduced asthmas severity and COPD
- Improved mental wellbeing and reduced depression risk
- Higher bone mineral density
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality .
TRICKS TO HELP MEET YOUR 5-A-DAY
- USE HIDDEN VEG: This might sound sneaky, but it is such an easy way to get the essential vitamins and minerals from veg into our diets. Simply using veg based pasta sauces which can be store-bought or homemade by being blended up and heated with chopped tomatoes to make a perfectly healthy and veg packed tomato sauce.
- SNACK ON FRUIT: Feeling peckish mid-morning or afternoon? Why not pick up a piece of fruit or make a fruit salad with yogurt to snack on? This is an easy way to get fruit into the diet and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.
- EAT IN COLOUR: The more colourful the combination of fruit and vegetables the more varied the nutritional intake will be. Make your plate as colourful as you can – make nutritious salads, fruit bowls, or even a stir fry packed full of colour, flavour, and taste!
- MAKE SMOOTHIES: Don’t fancy eating? Why not blend up frozen or fresh fruit to make a delicious smoothie. These are perfect for breakfast or as a snack and are even better on a hot summer’s day!
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO MIX IT UP: Don’t get bored of eating the same fruit – mix it up! Use a combination of all fruits and focusing on those in season will help keep costs down. Why not try using frozen and dried fruits? These are great as they last longer and can be put into smoothies or on top of porridge/yogurt.
- DRINK FRUIT JUICE: Having one glass (150ml) of fruit juice e.g., fresh apple juice not from concentrate will count towards one of your 5-a-day. Start the day off right with a glass of fresh juice and that is one portion already! However, anymore than this still only counts as one portion due to the high sugar content so move onto fruit, salads and veg based meals to get the rest in!
- AIM FOR 1-2 PORTIONS IN EACH MEAL: Ensuring you have 1-2 portions of fruit or veg in each meal will easily mean you hit the minimum 5-a-day target. Focus on having a balanced plate consisting of protein, carbs and fats keeping in mind a portion or two of fruit/veg. E.g., banana and fresh juice at breakfast, side salad at lunch, apple for a snack and a veg based pasta sauce for dinner will easily increase your fruit and veg intake.
- GET BAKING: Get creative! Why not add raspberries to your muffins, bake a banana bread or try find a funky recipe that uses fruit/veg to make a more nutritious version of your favourite foods?
Did you know that YSN designed PRO-TEEN to support young athletes with selective eating habits? Sometimes, getting the right foods in, at the right time can be challenging, especially for fussy eaters or athletes short of time. As a last case resort, why not try adding a scoop of PRO-TEEN into your athletes' morning smoothie, or with water/milk to get a boost of a carefully selected group of vitamins and minerals, alongside a healthy portion of protein, carbs and good fats.
You can also try our whole food NUTRI-TEEN bars, which are packed with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries - perfect for an energy boost before, during or after training.
 Dreher ML. Whole fruits and fruit fiber emerging health effects. Nutrients. 2018 Dec;10(12):1833.
 Aune D, Giovannucci E, Boffetta P, Fadnes LT, Keum N, Norat T, Greenwood DC, Riboli E, Vatten LJ, Tonstad S. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality—a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International journal of epidemiology. 2017 Jun 1;46(3):1029-56.