Take a bite out of our top tips
What do we mean by five-a-day?
Eating fruit and vegetables several times a day, every day, is one of the ways you can help keep your body feeling tip-top and healthy, but it’s important to make sure you eat enough. Evidence shows that eating at least five portions of fruit and veg combined each day can have significant health benefits.
Variety is the spice of life and it’s no different when it comes to getting your five-a-day. Make sure you’re ‘eating a rainbow’ by enjoying a mix of different fruits and vegetables, as each contain varied amounts of key vitamins and minerals. So you may love eating bananas or carrots, and although they count as part of it, these alone won’t hit your five-a-day quota.
Why is it important to get five-a-day?
Fruits and vegetables should be a staple part of any healthy and balanced diet – the more you eat the better. They can also help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.
They’re also a great way to add fibre to your diet, which can help with gut health and some digestive problems. They’re also a delicious and vibrant addition to any diet – from adding spinach to a smoothie to make it super green, or using tinned tomatoes to make a homemade soup or adding frozen sweetcorn to a tuna pasta bake. There are plenty of easy ways to add fruits and vegetables to your diet and reach your five-a-day target.
What counts as one portion?
Knowing how much to have can be confusing, but one portion towards your five-a-day is 80g fruit (or 30g dried fruit) and 80g vegetables. Here are a few examples of what these portions mean when it comes to adding them to your diet:
• One handful of grapes
• One heaped teaspoon of dried fruit
• Two spears of broccoli
• Half an avocado
• Seven strawberries
• One medium sweet potato
• Three tablespoons of red lentils
• Three tablespoons of chickpeas
• One cereal bowl of raw spinach
• Eight brussel sprouts
• One medium onion
• One medium banana
• Half a grapefruit
You need to try and have at least five different portions in a day to get your five-a-day. This could be seven strawberries with your porridge, one medium banana as a snack, half an avocado and baby spinach leaf salad at lunchtime plus three tablespoons of chickpeas and some onion and tinned tomatoes in a chickpea curry for dinner. Remember five is a minimum, the more the better! If you can, try and reduce your carbon footprint by buying your fresh fruit and veg without the packaging. It’s good for you and good for the environment – a double win!
What about children?
Your kids should also eat at least five portions of fruit and veg per day, with one portion roughly being the amount they can fit in the palm of their hand or the size of their clenched fist. Remember, the amount a child needs to eat depends on their age, size and how much exercise they get.
Which foods can help me achieve this?
Your five-a-day can be fresh, frozen, tinned (in juice or unsalted water), dried and even juiced (limited to 150ml per day) so you won’t need to make any dramatic changes to your diet in order to reach your recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. Potatoes don’t count towards your five-a-day, as they’re a starchy vegetable, but sweet potatoes do.
Fruit and vegetables found in ready prepared meals do count towards your five-a-day but keep an eye out as these meals may also be high in fat, salt and sugar. Keep these to a minimum where possible and always add extra vegetables or salad when you serve them. Prepare food yourself as much as possible then you are in control of what goes in.
Do drinks count too?
Yes, but only one 150ml glass of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice, or a smoothie per day. Remember, fruit cordials, squashes or flavoured waters do not count. But before you bring out the juicer, it’s important to note that no matter how much you drink, it’ll still only count as one portion towards your five-a-day so stick to the 150ml limit. This is because the juicing process removes the fibre (pulp, skin, pips) from the fruit leaving just the juice itself.
Crushing fruits and vegetables for your drinks releases sugar, so limit yourself to one small 150ml glass at a mealtime to help look after your teeth. A useful tip can be to measure 150ml into a glass once and note where it comes up to and then always use this glass. A one litre carton should last one person a week if they have 150ml/day
Bean counting? Rather like juice, beans and pulses count as a maximum of one portion a day, however much you eat. This is because, while pulses contain fibre, they don’t give the same mixture of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as fruit and vegetables.
Is it five or ten a day?
There is no right or wrong here. Eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is more achievable for many than eating ten, so start off with five and work up to more portions if that’s something you want to do. But eating at least five-a-day as part of a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle is a great way to help make your body look and feel better, so try to not put too much pressure on yourself.
How can I easily add five-a-day to my diet?
Boots Nutritionist Vicky Pennington says, "Eating your five portions a day needn’t be a chore – the variety of fruit and vegetables to choose from is endless, so there will be something for everyone. I’ve always suggested that you eat a ‘rainbow’ of colours – the more colourful the fruit and vegetables in your meal are, the wider the range of nutrients they contain."
Try adding one or two portions to every meal, and make fruit or veg your go-to snack. But before you go out and buy every fruit and vegetable under the sun, make a list of what you like and follow our top tips for adding these vibrant health picks to your diet:
• Add fruit to your porridge or yoghurt for a tasty start to the day. Why not have chopped banana on wholegrain toast for a naturally sweet treat
• Add a handful or two of different vegetables to a smoothie – it’s not just about the fruit. Carrot and baby spinach work well
• Throw chopped peppers and mushrooms in the pan with your scrambled egg
• Add grilled or baked tomatoes and/or baked beans to your cooked breakfast
• Try baking using courgette and beetroot in traybakes, muffins and cakes
• Add legumes (beans and lentils) to soups and stews for a hearty lunch or dinner
• Sprinkle grated carrot on top of your sandwich or jacket potato
• Order a side of vegetables or salad with your meal
• Swap crisps for a salad pot with your meal deal
• Swap biscuits for pieces of fruit
• Spread peanut butter on sliced pieces of apple – it’s tasty, honest!
What about supplements?
Go for the food first approach. Your body can usually get all of the vitamins and minerals it needs from your diet, so you should only look at adding supplements if you have been told to do so by your GP, dietitian, registered nutritionist or other health professional.