Less is more

Monday February 13, 2006

It was probably some hapless expert who started it, responding to an innocent question like: “Well, how much fruit and vegetable ought there to be in a balanced diet, then?” The “five-portions-a-day” rule that’s become the fad of our times has something of the impromptu about it, at least to my ears.

Of course, precision-seeking twits like me jumped straight in to ask less innocent follow-up questions. Like:

  • “How much is a portion?” The only answer I’ve come across is “A handful.”
  • “Do they have to be fresh?” The answer is “No, properly stored frozen, dried or canned provender will do.”
  • “Do they have to be different?” There was some hesitation over this one but mostly the answer is “Yes.”
  • “Are all vegetables included?” Some say “Yes”, some say “Yes, but not potatoes.” I’d argue that a potato baked in its jacket is perfectly valid but then I have a Londoner’s approach to meal structure—if it don’t include potato it ain’t food.
  • “Is soup included?” Mostly the answer is a reluctant “Yes.”

Somewhere along the line I learned that juiced fruit and vegetables was perfectly ok, and that pleased me immensely because I like juice. This past week, though, I’ve been fiercely irritated by a statement that only one portion a day may be taken in the form of juice.

This is ridiculous. I cannot for the life of me see that unfiltered juice—the only kind I enjoy—is any different to munching the stuff. Chewing fruit is not so easy if, as you grow older, you start to lose your teeth.

So I ignore that one. I also ignore the injunction that each portion should be different. While I do try for as much variety as possible, seasonal availability, distance from the shops and a shrinking purse can make that problematic.

Ach! I wash my hands of the whole foolish game. When you come down to it you’re left with no more than the sensible approach of seeking to follow a good, mixed, modest diet, taking into account your mother’s voice saying: “You’ll never grow up into a big strong man if you don’t eat your vegetables.”

Seems to me there’s only one dietary rule I really must follow: “Less is more.”



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