Tomato shortage: how to eat healthily through the vegetable crisis

Empty salad crates at a supermarket in the UK

If you rely on tomatoes and salad to get your 5 A DAY then the current shortage of fresh vegetables in UK shops could be a problem – but there are many healthy options still available

A shortage of fresh vegetables – especially salad items such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers – has surprised many shoppers, with some large supermarkets rationing how much we can buy. Supplies of other veg such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and carrots – and raspberries, are also disrupted, with farmers warning that shelves may be emptier until at least April.

And with our Great British Sarnie Swap – where we’re encouraging people to swap out the processed meat in sandwiches – in full swing, you may be wondering how to replace the salad crunch in your lunch.

But eating fruit and vegetables is really important for our health – so don’t let the disruption put you off eating well.

Fruit and veg:

Eating a rainbow

In one way, it’s good news that so many people are concerned about this shortage as it shows that eating vegetables has become both a habit and a pleasure for many of us – although only 28% of adults eat their 5 A DAY.

There’s also a benefit in that eating a range of different fruit and vegetables is good for us. So if your usual fruit or veg is temporarily unavailable, try something new.

And remember it’s mainly fresh produce that’s affected by the current shortage. Canned and frozen produce aren’t (yet) affected, and they also have nutritional benefits. Opt for cans with water or natural juice so you don’t find yourself eating added salt or sugar.

> Try our recipe generator: type in any storecupboard, fridge or freezer ingredient and be inspired!

How to beat the vegetable crisis

Know what’s in season

Designed for children – but handy for adults – our guide to what’s in season in the UK can help you look for alternatives.

Look beyond the supermarkets

Don’t forget to check out markets, and allotment and community garden sales. Local growers often struggle to use up all that they produce, so go and ask!

Keep your finger on the pulse(s)

Pulses such as peas, lentils, beans and chickpeas are all great sources of protein – and count as 1 of your 5 A DAY. They can also add bulk to recipes if vegetables are in short supply. Pulses make a wallet-friendly alternative, with the majority cheaply available dried or in cans.

Adapt your recipes

Many recipes that suggest tomatoes can use chopped varieties instead. Fresh tomatoes can also be frozen – but you’ll need to use them in sauces as they can go mushy. Vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower can be used interchangeably in many recipes – as can kale and sprouts.

And if you’re taking part in our Sarnie Swap, there are lots of alternatives to salad: try peppers, peas, avocado or sweetcorn – make sure to defrost if necessary beforehand!

We aim to include fruit and vegetables in almost all our recipes – and there are more than 350 free recipes on this website. Some even contain 4 or 5 of your 5 A DAY in 1 meal!

Here are some favourites:

Baked beans and cheese toastieBaked beans and cheese toastie
Who says beans and cheese should be reserved for a jacket potato? They work brilliantly in this toastie – and beans are 1 of your 5 A DAY.

Any vegetable soup recipeAny vegetable soup

Warming, versatile and contains 2 of your 5 A DAY. Swap out green veg for large root veg such as pumpkin or squash.

Bean goulash with mustard mashBean goulash with mustard mash

Tangy mash and smoky vegetarian goulash – comfort food for all the family.

Cheesy vegetable pasta bake

Cheesy vegetable pasta bake

If you can’t find tomatoes for the garnish, why not top with crispy onions? The carrots can be swapped out for mushrooms or parsnips – or just increase the amount of sweetcorn and/or peas.

Peach, pear and parsnip upside down cake

Peach, pear and parsnip upside down cake

After scouring the shops looking for tomatoes, you deserve a treat. This cake is healthy, good for all the family – and uses canned fruit.

Where next?

> Get a free cookbook

> Check out our Cancer Prevention Recommendations

> Eat Move Learn – healthy living support for families