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Frequently asked questions about food and recipes

What is considered a normal portion size for fruits and vegetables?

For the NHS 5-a-day guidelines:

Fruit portions

  • Small fresh fruit: 2 or more small fruit
  • Medium-sized fresh fruit: 1 piece of fruit
  • Large fresh fruit: depends on fruit size, such as half a grapefruit, a slice of melon
  • Dried fruit: Around 30g or a heaped tablespoon of raisins, currants or sultanas
  • Tinned fruit in natural juice: similar to fresh fruit quantity

Vegetable portions:

  • Green vegetables: 2 broccoli spears or four heaped tablespoons of kale, spinach, spring greens or green beans
  • Cooked vegetables: 3 heaped tablespoons of carrots, peas or sweetcorn, or 8 cauliflower florets
  • Salad: 3 sticks of celery, a 5cm piece of cucumber, 1 medium tomato or 7 cherry tomatoes
  • Tinned and frozen vegetables: Similar to fresh veg
  • Pulses and beans: 3 heaped tablespoons of baked beans, haricot beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, butter beans or chickpeas

Juices and smoothies: One 150ml glass of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice

Are artificial sweeteners a healthier choice than sugar?

Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or acesulfame K are safe, zero-calorie ingredients added to numerous food and drinks. Satisfy sweet cravings using foods and beverages sweetened with artificial sweeteners but do so in moderation. Your brain does not differentiate between real and artificial sweeteners, so if you want to control cravings for sweets, limit the use of artificial sweeteners. Craving sweets is a learned behaviour: the more sweets you eat, the more you want and vice-versa. Try satisfying your sweet tooth with boiled sweets, frozen grapes, fizzy water with citrus or a piece of fresh fruit.

How can I control my cravings?

Cravings often occur when you go for extended periods of time without anything to eat or drink. Sometimes the craving will pass if you drink a glass of water and distract yourself for 15 minutes. Eating nutritious meals and snacks every few hours controls blood sugar levels and minimises cravings. Satisfy your hunger with nutritious, low-calorie foods such as:

  • Raw or lightly steamed vegetables or lettuce, either plain or with a low-calorie dressing
  • Fresh fruit
  • Broth or tomato-based soups
  • Wholegrain breads or cereals
  • Lean protein. Include a source of lean or low fat protein to help extend the satisfaction from your snack. Good protein sources include skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt or cheese, handful of nuts, lean meat, fish or poultry.

Are raw eggs or egg whites safe to use in uncooked dishes?

In autumn 2017 the Food Standards Agency changed guidance on eggs so that even vulnerable groups can safely eat raw or lightly cooked UK produced eggs without needing to hard-boil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark.

Which foods are best for constipation?

Modifying your diet can help. Here are some basic suggestions to try:

  • Eat your meals at the same times each day
  • Get regular physical exercise
  • Drink lots of water and fluids - 6 to 8 glasses a day
  • Eat plenty of high-fibre food - vegetables, bran cereal, granary bread, fruits, fruit juices, beans, sweetcorn, nuts

Over-the-counter fibre supplements may also help provide relief.

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