Inclusive Sides: The Five-a-Day Plate

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This isn’t so much a recipe as an approach to family dining. We’re always hearing about the benefits of a plant-based diet, how it’s good for us and good for the planet. But if you’re coming from a place where your diet hasn’t always centred around these things, it can be hard to know where to start. Likewise, if you’ve hit a wall in terms of meal prep inspiration or if you want to try Veganuary but you’re feeling overwhelmed, or if you’re just tired of cooking but don’t want to feel like you’ve given up completely, this is for you.  

What I am suggesting here is literally just a plate piled up with five types of cut up raw veg and fruit. It takes almost no time to prepare and it’s the kind of thing that seems completely obvious one you think of it, only if it’s so obvious why didn’t we think of it before?! 

Now you ask, is it a salad? Is it a deconstructed salad? No. It is just a big plate of fruit and veg! Everyone shares. Everyone gets some fibre. It takes five minutes to prepare.

The Five-a-Day plate is perfect for grown-ups who want to increase their veg intake, but don’t have the time to trawl for new recipes. It also works really well for kids who approach veg with suspicion–it’s a great, low pressure way to get them used to seeing a lot of variety. Plonk the plate down in the centre of the table and take what you like. You don’t need a food processor or a spiraliser for this, just a knife and a cutting board. 

I like to serve this with what I will call ‘beige dinners’ or ‘freezer dinners.’ Those dinners that are comprised of some frozen protein and oven chips. Or crispy pancakes. Or honestly just whatever is at the bottom of the freezer that needs to be used up. The Five-a-Day plate is a justification and a prayer. It makes everything more virtuous. Sad freezer dinners are immediately elevated because everyone is also sharing something fresh and bright.

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A big messy pile of fruit and veg on taco night.

 

A Note on Shopping:

When I started trying to eat a more veg-centred diet, I didn’t know what I was doing. I had been used to basing my shopping list on recipes, and I was much more comfortable preparing meat. I asked a vegan friend about it, and she said she just goes to the produce section, picks whatever looks good, and plans her meals around that. Another thing that in retrospect seems obvious! For something like the Five-a-Day Plate, this works perfectly. Just go to the produce section and buy a bunch of whatever looks good, or whatever is in your budget. It also lends itself well to a vegbox–you don’t even have to think about it, just serve up whatever can be eaten raw. 

 

The Five-a-Day Plate 

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Time: 5-10 minutes.
Serves: As many as you like

Pick three types of veg and two types of fruit. Cut however you see fit. Throw it all together on a big plate, or just a regular plate. It doesn’t have to be exactly five types. Just get some raw veg and fruit onto the table somehow. 

Get creative with your combinations and your knife skills. Bring a bottle of olive oil to the table and drizzle it over your veg. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. Get fancy and garnish your veg with some olives or capers or seeds. Add some greens like spinach or kale or lettuce and call it a salad if you must. Any leftovers can go into a packed lunch the next day. 

Basic Veg:

Cucumber cut into rounds or sticks
Tomato slices or wedges or cherry tomatoes
Peppers
Carrot sticks
Courgette
Celery

Basic Fruit:

Apple
Pear
Grapes
Citrus
Melon
Bananas
Strawberries/Blueberries/Raspberries
Nectarines/Peaches/Plums

Next Level Veg:

Endive
Broccoli (kind of basic, but not everyone likes it raw, including me*)
Cauliflower
Fennel
Radishes
Celeriac
Kohlrabi

Next Level Fruit:

Mango
Papaya
Figs
Gooseberries
Kiwi
Starfruit
Lychee

 

*Fact: I will only eat raw broccoli if it is cut up into tiny pieces and served in a salad that contains a lot of and mayo and raisins and grated cheese.

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