Eat the rainbow, what does it mean?
As a nutritionist one of the first healthy eating tips I help my clients achieve is eating more fruit and vegetables. The UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey showed that 31% of adults and only 8% of children meet the 5-A-Day recommendation.
Colourful fruits and vegetables don’t just make your meal look colourful and appealing, they also contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. These are the natural compounds that give fruit and vegetables their beautiful colour, they fall into 5 main categories whichmay be very beneficial for our health.
Why you should eat the rainbow
Plants are rich in nutrients, they contain more than 100,000 phytonutrients which are thought to have important healing powers. These nutrients may help prevent diseases such as cancer, reduce inflammation and tackle harmful free radicals from pollution that damage tissues in the body.
The natural fibre found in fruits and vegetables is also beneficial for weight loss and gut health which is important for a healthy digestion. Eating a wide variety of plant foods is key for a diverse microbiome and it’s good for the environment too.
Nutrition Facts for Colourful Foods
The more we eat the more we benefit and many studies show we should really be aiming for at least 7 portions and ideally 10-a-day!
- Red foods- Phytonutrients: Lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant has been linked to lower risk of blood pressure and cholesterol problems, prostate cancer and heart disease. Red foods have anti-ageing and heart protecting properties. Try cherries, cranberries, radishes, red apples, red peppers, watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranate, beetroot or tomatoes.
- Purple / blue foods- Phytonutrients: Resveratrol may reduce heart disease and cancer risk and acts as an antioxidant and anti inflammatory. They support heart health and can prevent cancer. Try plums, aubergines, purple grapes, purple potatoes, red cabbage, blueberries or blackberries.
- Green foods- Phytonutrients: Zeaxanthin and lutein which may help to protect eye health. Green foods support digestion. Try broccoli, kale, spinach, rocket, asparagus, celery, courgettes, cucumbers, leeks, limes, mange tout, savoy cabbage, avocado or kiwi.
- Yellow/orange foods- Phytonutrients: Carotenoids such as beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A to help protect eyesight. Carotenoids act as antioxidants tackling free radicals that damage body tissues. Try pineapple, mango, carrots, squashes, sweet potatoes, yellow or orange peppers, oranges, lemons, nectarines or peaches.
- White / beige- Phytonutrients: Anthoxanthins which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce inflammation. They can help to strengthen bones. Try bananas, celeriac, garlic, artichoke, mushrooms, onions or turnips.
Meal Ideas for Healthy Eating
Breakfast: The right kind of breakfast can keep you full for hours and stop you reaching for biscuits at 11am. If you are trying to lose weight a good nutrition tip is to include some protein and healthy fats in your meal to help you feel fuller for longer.
-Porridge with any fruit such as blueberries or apples, adding some flaxseeds or chia for healthy fats.
-Warm stewed apples with cinnamon, yogurt and flaked almonds is good in the winter time.
-A smoothie is a good way to start the day, you can include spinach, apple, frozen berries, almond butter and chia seeds.
-Oven omelette muffins with chopped vegetables are a good weight loss option. These can be baked in advance and ready to go, if you are short on time.
Lunch: Make your lunch as colourful as possible by including a variety of plant foods.
-Mixed salad with tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and chickpeas. You can also add fruit such as chopped apple or mango to salads.
-A vegetable soup with oat crackers, whole meal or rye bread makes a filling lunch. An omelette with spring onion, spinach and red peppers can be made speedily.
-A warm salad with rocket and a variety of roasted vegetables sprinkled with some seeds for extra nutrients.
Dinner: Start your meal with a small soup or salad leaves in a simple homemade dressing. This is also a good nutrition tip if you are trying to lose weight. Aim to add 3 different vegetables to your evening meal.
-Salmon, chicken or tofu vegetable stir fry with brown rice. Made with ginger and any vegetables you have with ribbons of courgette and carrot.
-A vegetable curry with any mixture of vegetables you have such as tomatoes, onion, garlic, spinach or broccoli.
-Chilli made with onion, garlic, beans, tomatoes and colourful peppers. Spinach can normally be easily added to most meals to increase greens.
Snacks: Snacks are not always recommended especially if weight loss is your goal. It is often best to concentrate on eating enough during your three meals. This also gives your digestion an important rest. Children on the other hand may need snacks if they are active.
-Fruit makes a great portable snack, add some nuts or seeds for balance.
-Apple or a couple of dates with cashew or almond butter.
-Yogurt with fruit such as berries.
-Vegetable sticks including peppers, cucumber, celery or carrot sticks with hummus.
Here is a link to an eat the rainbow chart for you to print and fill in:
This delicious and healthy cauliflower soup recipe has 2 of your 5-a-day per potion