A veg( or five) too far: why 10 portions a day is way too much to ask | Kathleen Kerridge

In an ideal world, doubling our fruit and vegetable intake is a good notion. But in austerity Britain, it would be impossible to afford all that, let alone cook it

Government guidelines have, for some years, is of the view that eating five portions of fruit and veggies a day is what we should all be aiming for. Thats an achievable target for many, if not most, of us. Some days it might be felt in the purse, to make sure theres broccoli on a plate, but generally its possible to eat five different fruits and vegetables a day even on a strict budget.

Ten, though? When I first read that the guidelines could change, and we should be aiming for 10 portions of fruit and veg a day, I nodded and supposed: Huh, attains sense. But as I thought about it, while raiding my freezer for a bag of frozen carrots, I realised it was going to be another thing like buying free range organic, or only buying ethically sound garment that they are able to only serve to construct the poor feel guilty, again less than good enough.

Most days my family eats five a day with ease. The veg is in my budget, and theres always a suitcase of bananas or satsumas around. I buy frozen veggies and fresh fruit, and they get vacuumed up by the family as fast as I can serve them. To serve and supply double this, though? When vegetables are sold in 900 g containers for the most component, and each member of the family should be having 10 sections a day at 80 g a portion they cant be the same fruit or vegetable then for households already fighting, this extra recommendation seems impossible.

Already millions are feeling the pinch of extended austerity. Seeing a fiver for the electric meter, or making sure theres food on the table at all, is a common combat across the country. Its not unusual for thousands of children to go to school hungry, having not eat breakfast because the closets were bare at home.

Food banks are having a hard time keeping up with the families who, after paying their rent, have no fund left for groceries. People who have no real cook facilities, often relying on a worktop oven or a microwave to watch them through, will have good reason to roll their eyes and ignore this advice. For some, its not even worth aiming for. Its impossible to afford it, let alone cook it.

Frozen
Just adding half a frozen container of greens to a dinner for four people will cost an extra 50 p. And thats merely one section of veg at dinner. Photograph: Garry Weaser for the Guardian

When there is so much gap in income in this country, and when so many are fighting to live from payday to payday, as Sure Start centres fade into memory , taking food education and their healthy eating plans with them, and school dinners rise in cost, it seems shortsighted to interfere more in what people are putting on their plates. Maybe a little bit cruel. Just adding half a frozen container of greens to a meal for four people will cost an extra 50 p. And thats merely one section of veg at dinner.

To eat 10 portions a day, there needs to be three or four on a dinner plate if the specific objectives is going to be achievable an extra 2 for one dinner, or 14 a week for an evening meal with four portions of cheap frozen veggies each night. Add in a banana during the day, some fruit for breakfast, a snack of beans on toast, an apple before dinner, and then something else for supper? The food bill has get out of control, and the guilt decides in, much as it does when Im left with no alternative but to buy inexpensive clothes I know have been constructed in a sweatshop overseas.

In an ideal world I would be dressing in Fairtrade cottons and eating make from my local farmers marketplace. In reality, a handful of sprouts and some green beans from the freezer accompanies a meal, and my clothes are from the cheapest stores on the high street. In an ideal world, I would construct my children smoothies every day for breakfast. I would source only the finest ingredients. I would only buy free scope organic produce. I would feed 10 portions of fruit and veg a day.

This, though, isnt an ideal world. This is Britain, hit by the effects of rising rents and an austerity budget. Many councils are set to raise taxes by 5% this year, adding another 100 at the least to my bill for 2017. Tax credits, running benefits, housing the advantages and every other benefit that isnt an old age pension have been frozen for three years. Wages arent increasing to match the cost of living. Energy expenses is passing through the roof. In Britain today, an iceberg lettuce costs 75 p, and I can promise you that a portion of lettuce wont fill a belly for long.

Ten a day? Maybe not.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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