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Peas Please! Make your pledge to up Britain’s veg.

Nationwide Caterers Association pledges support to the Food Foundation’s Peas Please project, to promote healthy eating while reducing meat content.

Peas Please

The UK loves meat. But recent research has found that our over-enthusiastic meat consumption isn’t just doing damage to our belt buckles; it’s harming our health too. To help promote greater parity between meat and vegetables in servings, with the long-term hope of increasing life expectancy across the UK, NCASS has recently signed up to the Peas Please project.

Should we really be worrying about eating fruit and veg?

Recent research carried out by Imperial College London has found that it’s high time consumers forgot the whole ‘5 a day’ thing. Times have changed. At least seven is the new five (sad times for all who are proud to just about manage three or four portions of fruit and veg in a day – including me).

According to the latest figures, eating up to ten portions of fruit and vegetables could prevent as many as 7.8 million premature deaths across the globe each year. While an easy-enough-to-achieve 200g of fruit and vegetables per day is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature death, going the extra mile is what will provide consumers with the maximum amount of protection against said concerns.

The challenge: taking the bull by the horns and… Removing it from our fridges.

It looks as though we’re not really doing ourselves much good, as a merry bunch of (generally) meat-crazy consumers. Some of the greatest threats to our health and wellness lie in our diets. And it’s not just the nation’s life expectancies and all-round health that can benefit from a reduction in meat consumption.

Recent Government dietary reports show that it is possible to reduce the UK’s diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 17% if we all ate a little less meat and a little more veg every day. It doesn’t sound too hard, right? And that means that both the environment and farmers could benefit too.

At the Nationwide Caterers Association, we reckon it’s about time we did something about this problem. That’s why we’ve signed up to the Food Foundation’s Peas Please project, to help reduce meat offerings and replace them with healthier options within the catering sector.

Executive Director of the Food Foundation, Anna Taylor, said: “Our consumption of veg remains stubbornly low, with dangerous consequences. Our environments conspire against us – sugary fatty foods are piled high and sold cheap, while some places can be fruit and veg deserts. The pledges made by companies and public sector organisations have the potential to add up to millions of extra portions of veg on our plates every year. If you think your organisation can help, get in touch and make a Pledge for Veg!”

Caterers are already making a difference

Several contract caterers have already made pledges to the campaign which will lead to an introduction of more vegetables into millions of school meals, company canteens and care homes. We hope to help make smaller but similar changes within the mobile catering sector.

Through Peas Please, we plan to work with traders to help them consider how to make their options healthier while reducing or even removing meat content. Of course, we won’t be bidding farewell to the beautiful burgers and other meat dishes that the UK knows and loves. Instead, we’ll be working with meat-focussed traders to see how they can add healthier fruit and vegetable options to their menu offerings, while incrementally reducing their meat content.

Opportunities for West Midlands street food traders offering more veg

Along with the help of the Harborne Food School, NCASS has secured commitment from Birmingham City Council that they will support the West Midlands Street Food Alliance in its bid to develop new street food businesses. The council will work with us to recruit and support 100 new street food traders through the Great Big Brummie Street Food Competition. One of the competition categories includes “Healthy Street Food” which will offer at least a third of the 100 new vendors support to launch if they offer at least two portions of veg in their meals.

To this end, NCASS has developed standards for mobile food businesses as part of the Erasmus and Street Food for Regions project. We will provide regular updates to both Public Health and Environmental Health and hope to see success by achieving healthier street food options in regions cross Birmingham, not just within the city centre.

With proper menu planning and well-thought-through strategies, it won’t be difficult for traders to offer more veg and a little less meat on their menus. The promise of extra support from Birmingham City Council with trading – which until now hasn’t necessarily been the easiest of things to do – should be a great motivator in your menu planning.

NCASS Director Mark Laurie recently represented us at the Vegetable Summit, taking part in a panel that discussed what should be done among UK's caterers and care providers to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

Vegetable Summit 2017

So what is a portion of fruit or veg?

A quick look at the NHS website tells you all you need to know about the recommended portion sizes of fruit and vegetables. For starters, you should know that an adult’s portion of fresh fruit or vegetables weighs 80g; helpful if you’ve got your scales at the ready.

Small fruit like kiwis, plums or satsumas, add up to half a portion each. Medium-sized fruit such as apples, bananas and pears equal a portion each, while larger fruits – like grapefruit and mango – amount to around half a portion each.

On the vegetable front you’ll find that three heaped tablespoons of pulses, beans and cooked items add up to one portion (we’re talking stuff like kidney beans, chickpeas, sweetcorn or chopped carrots). Meanwhile, in terms of salad vegetables, a 5cm chunk of cucumber, seven cherry tomatoes or three sticks of celery count as one portion each. Oh and before you ask: no, potatoes don’t count (shame, I know).

You can find more detailed information about portion sizes of fruit and vegetables on the NHS website here.

How healthy are your menu offerings?

When was the last time you weighed and compared the amounts of meat and vegetables in your own menu offerings? Got a moment to give that a go in the next few days? If you can find ways to increase the amount of vegetable or fruit portions that you offer in your menu, you’ll do your customers no end of favours. And you really don’t have to compromise on flavour. By simply changing portion sizes, you could make all the difference.

Healthier options are really appealing to more and more millennials on the look-out for delicious fast food. According to the Organic Trade Association, some 40% of millennials are embarking on a plant-based diet having placed more value in what goes into their bodies. And with the number of consumers eating out increasing by a whopping 20% over the last thirty odd years, this is the moment when mobile caterers should be capitalising on more customers with healthier appetites.

There are lots of caterers out there who have already made changes to create healthier options for their customers, without going the whole hog (excuse that pun) and becoming vegan- or vegetarian only businesses. If you would like help working out exactly how to make your food offerings more healthy, please give the NCASS Support Team a call on 0121 603 2524 or sign up to Peas Please here.

For more information about the Peas Please initiative, and to pledge your support, please visit the Food Foundation website here.

What does Peas Please mean for traders? Mark Laurie has some thoughts:

Mark Laurie“If we want more opportunities to sell our food to the public, we can get them by offering healthy alternatives; ones that won’t increase risks to
life expectancy or add to the looming obesity crisis in the UK. Great
cooks can do amazing things with vegetables, and through Peas Please we’re challenging them to do just that. By including two portions of vegetables in their dishes, traders can help their customers to get their required daily intake, increase their gross profit margins and delight their customers with beautiful dishes. We can take on the chicken shops and get healthy street food where it belongs: on the streets.”

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