Getting Your 5-a-day on a Budget

By Elizabeth Kinnear on 23-10-2016
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You have no doubt been told at least once in your life that you should be eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. While there is dispute over the exact number of portions we should be eating, we cannot deny that including a variety of fruits and vegetables in our diet is beneficial for not only our health, but also for the environment.   

On a student budget, we are undoubtedly less inclined to spend precious pennies on healthy meal prep when there are so many other much more exciting things we could do with our money. However, I have put together a few simple and delicious vegetarian recipes that are simple to make, and most importantly, won’t break the bank!

Breakfast: Banana Oatmeal with Frozen Berries

This recipe is definitely a favourite of mine, and has never failed to fuel me throughout long mornings of lectures and tutorials. The recipe is extremely simple, and contains approximately 3 portions of fruit. Oatmeal is extremely versatile, and therefore you can exchange the fruit I have used for any other fruit you may like.
I have used berries in this recipe, and while berries are generally very expensive in supermarkets, frozen berries are very affordable and will last you a lot longer!

All you need is:
• ½ cup oats
• 1 cup liquid (water, milk, plant milk)
• 1 ripe banana
• a handful of frozen berries of your choice
• ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
• 1 tsp honey (optional)

All you need to do is put the ingredients in a pot and boil the oats until they are cooked. You may need to use more or less liquid depending on your preferred consistency. Eating a medium apple or orange alongside your oatmeal will add extra portions of fruit to your breakfast and will help you feel fuller for longer.

Lunch: Vegetable Pasta 

Another versatile recipe, this pasta dish includes a variety of different vegetables that can easily be interchanged. You may be surprised to find that an onion in fact counts towards your 5-a-day, as does tomato puree. Fulfilling your quota may not be as difficult as you might have imagined!

Ingredients:
• your choice of pasta
• 1 medium onion
• ½ can chopped tomatoes or 1 tbsp tomato puree
• large handful of spinach
• ½ red pepper
• ½ zucchini

Directions:
• Place a pot of water on the stove and put in your desired amount of pasta when the water starts to boil.
• Slice up the onion and red pepper into long strips and add to a heated pan with a splash of olive oil. Stir-fry until the onions turn golden and the pepper begins to soften.
• Cut the zucchini into ½ cm rounds and add to the pan. When all the vegetables appear to be cooked through, add the spinach. Let the spinach cook for about a minute and then take the pan off the heat.
• By this point, the pasta should have cooked through. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the tomato sauce and add the vegetables. Mix together.
• Voila!

Dinner: Vegetable-Fried Rice

As your daily vegetable quota was fulfilled during lunch, you need not worry too much about dinner. Although, the more vegetables you eat during the day, the better! This recipe involves minimal effort, yet is extremely tasty.

Ingredients:
• ½ cup rice (white or brown)
• your choice of frozen vegetables (1 cup)
• 1 egg
• soy sauce

Directions:
• boil the rice in a pot until it is fully cooked
• drain the rice and place in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Add about a cup of frozen vegetables and fry until the vegetables are defrosted.
• Break and egg into the rice and stir into the ingredients.
• When the vegetables are cooked through, drizzle in some soy sauce. 

Snacks: 

It is important to snack on healthy foods throughout the day to keep your energy levels up. Snacks are a perfect was to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet without too much thought or pre-planning. Good snacks to have on hand include:
• Apples
• Oranges
• Grapes
• Cherry tomatoes
• Carrot sticks

Following a basic meal plan like this allows you to obtain all the vital nutrients and minerals, and gives you the opportunity to include a variety of different fruits and vegetables. Use broccoli instead of spinach in the pasta, or put some chopped mushrooms in the fried rice… Switch the ingredients given with a choice of your own, and these meals will never be boring!

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