Eat the Alphabet: When I Accepted The Challenge…

“Eat the Alphabet?” – okay – challenge accepted!

The more vegetables and fruits we can eat a day the better!  Around 10 portions daily is optimal!

What I tell a lot of my clients is that it isn’t just about the number of portions we eat it’s actually more about the variety.  What makes each fruit and vegetable taste, smell and look different is a different set of nutrients…………and we want as many of those as possible going into our bodies.

The easy way to get more variety is to aim to eat the rainbow – yep….make sure that each day you have something that is red, green, purple, white, yellow, orange, brown etc

That does take some planning but is actually quite easy to do especially if you ensure you have 2 or 3 fruits or vegetables with each meal.  BUT….I wanted to take this a step further.  You see, it’s great to have lots of fruits and vegetables daily but what can happen is that you eat the same set of vegetables most days (carrots, peas, broccoli and bananas anyone?!) and whilst that is still good….it’s not great.

The bacteria that live in our digestive system love a bit of variety and research shows that people with more variety in the diet have a greater variety of these bacteria in their intestines………these bacteria make vitamins, they control most of our immune system, they are fundamental in making serotonin which helps boost our mood and they keep our bowels super healthy.  They do a whole lot more but these 4 things are pretty significant to how we feel daily.

So, I heard Dr Chatterjee mention that a great challenge is to aim to “eat the alphabet” over a 4 week period…………..and I do love a challenge!

This February I embarked on the “Eat the Alphabet” challenge and roped in the people in my “Less Frazzle, More Sparkle” Facebook group too.

It’s a very simple concept – take all the letters of the alphabet and aim to eat a fruit of vegetable starting with each letter.

I love a chart and so I started simple:

eat the alphabet chart

Next was to get planning and shopping.  It started easily and within a week I felt I was making brilliant progress.  I had to be a little “inventive” with names and go American with aubergine and courgette to give me an E and a Z but I figure that is allowed!

By 2 weeks in it was getting harder.  The environmental side of me did kick in as I do prefer to eat more seasonally and that isn’t really possible with this challenge.  This is an element of the challenge that will always not sit well with me and ongoing I need to find a way to keep variety but within the seasons.

I totally lucked out on a weekend away with my husband when a fruit platter arrived and had fresh figs, honey dew melon and kiwi…result!

By week 3 I was struggling.  Despite eating a lot of vegetarian meals and naturally eating a lot of fruits and vegetables I realised that my repertoire is actually smaller than it should be.  So on week 3 I ended up planning foods around what letters I had left!

During the third week I popped into a local Italian shop for some olive oil and stumbled across a quince in there – I was super happy but seriously had no idea what to do with it.

It seems that any recipe I could find have tons of added sugar which is something I’d rather avoid.

In the end I poached it in water with vanilla and cinnamon and a splash of maple syrup and it was really very tasty

what to do with a quince
quince recipes
eat the alphabet challenge
what to do with a quince
quince recipes
eat the alphabet challenge

Then I was left with just J, U and X.  This was getting very tough going.  My nearest supermarket has started selling a new brand of plant protein foods and this really helped me out with my “J”.  They had tins of jack fruit which I was able to use in some enchiladas that I was making.  They were brilliant – I slow cooked with peppers and onions in a tomato based sauce and the jackfruit really did look just like shredded meat – popped in some beans and turned them into a great meal………..even my husband said that in the sauce it was tasty!!!

what to do with jackfruit
vegan protein
jackfruit recipes
eat the alphabet challenge

So………………….how did I do by the end?

Well I never did get my U and my X – I searched high and low for an ugli fruit but never found one.  I came across some Ugandan Yams but didn’t buy those in the end……they were very pricey, out of season and travelled far and I felt they would really be a Y for a yam rather than the U so I left it there.  One of my “less frazzle” group said to just go for eXotic fruit – I quite liked that idea!

Despite not finishing I don’t feel that I failed.  I feel that I am a real winner.  It’s opened my mind to just how important variety is.  My digestive system is feeling great, my energy levels are good, the immune system strong AND I’ve really enjoyed eating lots more variety.

Ongoing I’m going to be much more aware of eating a broader range of fruits and vegetables BUT I am going to ensure that there is a much stronger basis around seasonal foods

If you fancy taking on this challenge yourself I can’t recommend it highly enough – it is a great thing to do even if you don’t quite make it.  It is a great learning curve.  Here is a link to the Dr Chatterjee information:

Here is where I ended up!!

Janet xx

PS There are many ways to work with me to improve your health and I’d love to help. Why not take a look around my website and see how I might help….. here is a great place to start

completed chart on the eat the alphabet challenge

Janet Padfield

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