The 'experts' say that you should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
This is ridiculous. I know I could eat more than that in apples alone at times. In fact, I often carry an emergency apple around in my pocket just in case I need one. However, I decided that I would try a five portion diet for five days. Hopefully it won't kill me.
Firstly, I kept track of the fruit and vegetables I ate in one week, to see how many portions I had to cut back on. The trouble I found was classifying what one portion is. I have heard that a portion is around one handful. But whose hand?
Some fruits tell you on the packaging. For example, two satsumas apparently make up one portion. However, one apple of less volume also counts as one.
I ended up classifying 500ml bottles of fruit juice as two portions, because they work out at about two normal glasses for me. However I did see on one label that 150ml was one portion, which would make each bottle over three portions.
Basically, the system is flawed.
I would like to invent a system with a set mass of food being one portion, and then measuring things more precisely (2 decimal places is always nice), but for now, I'll go with the existing system.
This was my week in fruit and vegetables. Maybe not a completely normal week, but it's probably a fair representation:
Cherry tomatoes and cucumber
Glass of peach juice
TOTAL: 7 portions
Glass of peach juice
Glass of apple juice
Total: 7 portions
Glass of apple juice x2
Total: 9 portions
Glass of peach juice
Bottle of apple juice
Total: 5 portions
Mixed vegetables with dinner
Total: 6 portions
Chow mein (onions and pepper)
Total: 7 portions
Salad (equivalent to 2 portions)
Total: 7 portions
I was actually quite surprised that I only averaged about 7 portions a day. I was expecting it to be higher.
Now for the five day period of strict fruit and vegetable counting. I had to cut back on two portions each day on average. This meant finding out in advance what would be in my meals for the day, and then filling the remaining portions with, most likely, apples.
I also had to find something to fill the gap in which I would usually have more fruit. I prepared in advance. I brought home two packets of breadsticks from my holiday in Italy, and bought two large bags of Rowntree's Jelly Tots. Hopefully, they would serve as a replacement for some of the missing fruit.
Now follows an account of my five relatively fruitless days.
Day 1 - Thursday
I found out in the morning that at dinner we would be having jacket potato and baked beans, neither of which count in the five-a-day system. I ate an apple at breakfast.
We went out to an amazing chocolate shop in Swanage for Easter provisions, which would give me something else to eat when apples were unavailable. At lunch, I ordered a bottle of orange juice before thinking, and the meal came with a side salad, so I found that by only halfway through the day I had used up four of the five portions.
Throughout the afternoon, I managed to eat a whole packet of breadsticks, leaving me with diminishing supplies.
I then ate my one allowed apple in the evening.
So overall, not a good start to the challenge. At this rate, I'll need to get more breadsticks to last me until Easter Sunday, when I'll have chocolate to distract me from the apple shortage...
Day 2 - Friday
I was more careful in the first half of today. Finding out that there would probably be one portion in dinner today, I ate an apple at breakfast again. At lunch, I read the packaging of mini plum tomatoes, and found out that 6 of them made up one portion. I took three, and also ate a satsuma to make up the other half.
Midway through the afternoon I realised I had halved my breadstick supply again, and the Jelly Tots weren't doing very well either. I allowed myself one apple to stop myself eating all the supplies. This brought my total portions up to 3. It didn't help that every time I went into the kitchen, I could see the newly stocked fruit bowl. I tried to avoid it before I could no longer resist the temptations.
As I'd found out before, there was one portion of peas with dinner. In the evening I ate two more satsumas to bring my total portions to five.
Day 3 - Saturday
I followed the same formula as yesterday, with an apple at breakfast and the satsuma and tomatoes at lunch. I found out that today's dinner would have two portions, so that left me with one gap to fill.
I went to the local corner shop to start stocking up on drinks for an upcoming camping trip. While there, I found some new supplies to stop me eating all of the breadsticks:
In the evening, I ate an apple while watching the new Doctor Who episode, and had the promised two portions with dinner.
Not eating apples all the time is getting hard. I keep seeing them, and then having to actually think about whether the 'experts' will let me eat one. Still, I'm over halfway now.
Day 4 - Easter Sunday
This morning's breakfast was a BLT sandwich, for which I used three mini tomatoes and half a handful of lettuce to make it one portion. I got chocolate today, it being Easter. In theory this should give me something else to fill the apple gap. However, what I've been finding is that it's not as simple as that. Even if I eat the amount of chocolate which could offset an apple, I will still want an apple. The substitute foods just aren't the same, and what's more, must be bad for my health really.
At lunch I went for the usual three mini tomtoes and satsuma. Thank goodness they only count as half a portion, or I might not be managing this...
I finished the breadsticks today. And the Jelly Tots. I need more fruit. Dinner contained two portions of vegetables. This then gave me the chance to eat an apple in the evening.
I'm glad there's only one day left now. This is turning out to be a lot harder than I had thought it would be.
Day 5 - Monday
The last day of this self-imposed torture. I was hungry for fruit at breakfast, so I went for two satsumas rather than an apple, because although they still only count as one portion, I think you get more from them.
We went out to the New Forest today, and had lunch at a rather nice pub. I had a chicken pie, complete with three portions of vegetables (peas, carrots, cabbage). This now severely limited my options for the afternoon, as I had only one portion left.
Unsurprisingly, I ate an apple in the afternoon. I then had cheese on toast in the evening to avoid any more fruit and vegetable portions.
So I survived (or perhaps I shouldn't say that until midnight). It turned out that, for me at least, the 'experts' are wrong. Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables each day is not necessarily a good thing. It has led to me feeling that there's something missing. It has also led to some rather unhealthy eating habits. I thought yesterday that I should have actually weighed myself before and after the five days, as I'm sure all the junk I was eating where apples would usually go gave me several times the calorific content. Something to try another time, maybe.
Or maybe not. Much more time with restricted fruit access might just cause me to go insane.
I have found over the past five days that the fruit portion system is flawed, and I'm thankful for this. If satsumas had counted as a full portion rather than half, it would have been much harder to keep going with this task.
I have been thinking about a better system involving more accurate measurements of portions, as I mentioned near the beginning. I would probably use one Granny Smith apple as the standard unit, equalling one portion. From there I would work out the average mass this equates to, and then work out how much of a portion other things are by their mass. OK, there are probably flaws in this as well, but it makes more sense to me.
Tomorrow, I have no doubt I will be over-compensating for my apple deficiency, and by the end of the week things will be back to normal.