Ten is the magic number now - did you know that?
Yes, for all of us trying to live a healthier life, 5 portions of fruit and veg is old news, it’s all about trying to fit 10 varieties of plant into our diet every day.
Commit to a 10 a day habit and you’ll not only emit the glow of the truly well nourished - you’ll live longer too.
Back in 2017, research by Imperial College London showed that this sort of eating habit could prevent 7.8 million premature deaths each year.
Plus it turns out that our Canadian cousins have known this all along.
Their national guidelines already suggest as many as 8-10 portions each day is best.
So if you’re going to pack in those veggies you’ll have to be prepared to cook your meals from scratch.
But if the thought of all that prep fills you with horror, to celebrate 10 a day, here are our 10 plant based life hacks to make the slicing and dicing a walk in the park.
1. Carve up your pomegranate in style
Containing more than 100 phytochemicals (healthy, plant based compounds), pomegranates have been used in medicine for thousands of years.
The brilliantly red seeds not only look pretty on the plate but contain antioxidants and Vitamin C and help with everything from arthritis to heart disease.
But - have you ever tried to get those tricky little ruby seeds out?
Surrounding each jewel-like seed is a bitter, white pith, and separating the two can be fiddly and time consuming.
That’s until you see this incredible hack...
2. Be the boss of your butternut
Roasted butternut with cumin seeds, cinnamon and chilli flakes has got to be high up there on the autumn comfort food hit list (top tip: blend the roasted squash with a little veg or chicken stock for a warming, gently spiced soup) but chopping through the awkward, rock hard flesh can be a challenge.
For an easy way to simply cook a squash, just pop it in the oven entirely whole (prick the skin a few times first) and bake for 60-90 mins at about 180C until soft.
You’ll then find it easy to peel off the skin, remove the seeds and mash or chop.
But if you want the lovely flavours and caramelisation of roasted squash, you still need to get the better of it before it cooks.
Here’s a life hack to save you a lot of time and effort (and potentially avoid losing a finger).
Simply cut a few large slits through the skin with a large knife before microwaving the whole butternut on high for about 3-5 minutes.
This will soften the skin.
Make sure to let it cool for a few moments before attacking it again, but you’ll find it easy to peel the skin off or slice right through for roasting.
3. Master onion chopping once and for all
Sick and tired of weeping over a sliced onion? It’s time to show them who’s boss!
There’s a couple of strategies for this one.
Start by getting the better of the main culprit - the root of the onion.
Simply slice in half with the skin still on and remove the top of each onion half.
This will allow you to peel away the outer skin, but the crucial point here is to leave the root end intact like this, even whilst chopping.
It’ll mean you can easily keep control of your slices whilst dicing, and better still, it’ll minimise the release of those chemical gases which make your eyes sting.
And an even easier way - if you have the time - is to pop the onion in the freezer for 15 minutes before cutting.
4. Garlic without the stink
A superfood renowned for not only giving a real depth of flavour to almost any dish, garlic also genuinely improves your health.
It’s an infection-fighter and has properties which help lower cholesterol, widen the arteries and even inhibit cancer.
To get rid of garlicky breath, simply chew on a bit of fresh parsley.
Drinking a glass of milk is also said to help as compounds in the milk react to neutralise the smell.
And to remove the smell of garlic from your fingers after preparing a meal, try rubbing your hands with something made of stainless steel (like the back of a spoon) under running water.
5. Perfect avocados every time
To avoid rock hard avocados, just invest in a little planning. Simply place unripe avos into a paper or cloth bag along with a banana and leave for two or three days to soften.
And if you only need half an avocado at a time, you can keep the other half in pretty good condition as long as you leave the stone in, before wrapping and refrigerating.
6. No fuss corn on the cob
Take advantage of your microwave to whip up hot cobs in minutes. No need for pans of boiling water - simply wrap each corn in kitchen paper towel and dampen under the tap. Pop the wrapped cobs directly into the microwave and cook for about 3 minutes. Unwrap and enjoy!
7. Never waste overripe bananas.
If you’re not a fan of a brown banana, never throw it away. Simply pop them into the freezer, peeled and sliced and you’ve got the ingredients for banana bread, smoothies (simply blend them frozen) or even this divine vegan ice cream.
8. Swap carbs for cauli
Here’s a life-changing plant hack! Avoid eating the empty calories in white rice by swapping it for cauliflower rice. This hack is so much easier than cooking real rice, it adds another veg to your 10 a day and best of all, it tastes great.
Simply blend raw cauliflower florets (and stalks) in a blender until you have a fine grain, like couscous. Place into a shallow bowl and microwave for around 5-7 minutes. No need to add water or anything else and you’ll have hot, fluffy cauliflower rice. This also works with broccoli.
9. Raid the freezer
Don’t forget the freezer when it comes to topping up your fruit and veg choices. Simply adding frozen peas, sweetcorn, broad beans or edamame to soups, casseroles, stir fries or pasta adds another vegetable to your tally.
Frozen berries are also a quick and easy way to add more nutrients to your diet. Add to smoothies or bake into pies.
The best thing about freezer fruit and veg is that it’s just as healthy as fresh - sometimes more so. That’s because it’s frozen so quickly after picking that most of the nutrients remain rather than breaking down with age.
10. A treat for the weekend
Finally, if all this healthy eating has taken its toll during the week, here’s a fun way to liven up your weekend glass of wine - and add another of your 10 a day.
Simply ensure you keep some single grapes in the freezer and pop them into a glass of wine for an easy way to chill your white or rose without diluting it. Just don’t forget to eat the grapes at the end!