We are all encouraged to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day to help us stay healthy. However, do you know what counts towards your 5-A-Day?
Five portions of fruit and vegetables a day will provide a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fibre that can help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers as well as keeping your gut healthy. Including plenty fruit and vegetables in your diet will also help keep your liver healthy. With only 3 in 10 adults and 1 in 10 teenagers achieving the 5-A-Day target (National Diet and Nutrition Survey, 2016) we all have plenty of room for improvement!
So what counts as a portion?
Fresh, canned, frozen, dried or juiced fruit and vegetables all count towards your 5-A-Day. A portion of fresh, canned or frozen fruit or vegetables is 80g or roughly the amount you can hold in your hand. For example, a handful of grapes, an apple, two satsumas or about seven cherry tomatoes. A portion of cooked vegetables is about three heaped tablespoons (e.g. carrots, peas or sweetcorn), a dessert bowl of salad or a 5cm piece of cucumber. With canned fruit or vegetables around three tablespoons is a portion. It’s best to choose fruit canned in natural juice rather than syrup.
Pulses and beans also count towards your 5-A-Day with a portion being around three heaped tablespoons of baked beans, kidney beans, butter beans or chickpeas. (see previous blog on pulses) However, pulses and beans only count as a maximum of one portion a day, even if you eat more. This is because, even though they are an excellent source of fibre, they contain fewer nutrients than other fruits and vegetables.
A portion of dried fruit is about 30g (which is equivalent to around 80g of fresh fruit). As dried fruits can stick to your teeth, it’s best to have them with a meal rather than as a snack. Adding a heaped tablespoon of chopped dates or sultanas to porridge or a dessert is a great way to include a portion of dried fruit.
How much is a portion of juice or smoothie?
A portion of fruit/vegetable juices and smoothies is 150ml or a small glass. These drinks can count towards your 5-A-Day, but only a maximum of one portion (even if you drink more than 150ml). When whole fruits and vegetables are juiced or blended, a lot of the beneficial fibre is lost, and the sugars are released. These ‘free sugars’ can damage teeth, so it’s best to have a fruit juice with a meal, dilute it with some water or drink through a straw.
What doesn’t count?
Vegetables such as potatoes, yams, cassava and plantain do not count towards your 5-A-Day as these are considered starchy carbohydrate foods. However, sweet potatoes, parsnips and swedes do count as these are usually eaten alongside a starchy food as part of a meal.
Around a third of what we eat each day, should be fruit and vegetables. Variety is also key, so aim to eat a rainbow of different coloured fruits and vegetables as you’ll then get a range of nutrients and antioxidants. Try to have 1 or 2 portions of fruit or vegetables with every meal. If you have 1 portion with your breakfast, 2 with lunch and 2 with dinner you’ll have achieved your 5-A-Day! Plus, you can add more by choosing fruit or vegetables as a healthy snack.