Five a Day Questions? Let’s get that sorted for you..
So what’s all this 5 A Day business about then?
In the UK, we don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables and so the Government recommends that we eat more with a simple and easy to follow ‘Five a Day’ message. Some Countries go even further. For example, the Australian Government recommends 7 a Day – 5 portions of Veg and 2 of Fruit. But the message still hasn’t got through to everyone, so we’ve answered some of the most common questions to keep you on the right path.
Why are fruit and Vegetables so good for our Health?
That’s an easy one to start with:
- Lots of Fibre for digestive health
- Low Calorie (mostly), which helps with weight control
- Low Salt, which is good for lower blood pressure
- High in Vitamins and Minerals that our bodies need to function correctly
- Can help to prevent Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and some Cancers
Does the fruit and veg have to be fresh?
Surprisingly, no! Fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juiced fruit, and vegetables all count towards your 5 portions. Aim for at least 5 portions (a total of 400g or one pound) of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day.
Dried fruit and juices and smoothies can cause tooth decay, so you should try and eat as part of a meal, rather than a between meal snack.
How much is one portion of FRUIT for adults?
One portion of fruit is approximately 80g, which is roughly half a large grapefruit, one apple or 2 small fruits like plums or tangerines. One portion of dried fruit is around 30g and this is the equivalent of 80g of fresh fruit. One 30g portion could be 3 dried apricots or 1 tablespoon of raisins.
A small glass of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice or smoothie counts as 1 portion
Portion sizes are different for children and depend on their age and size. As a rough guide, 1 portion is the amount that fits into the palm of their hand.
How much is 1 portion of VEGETABLES for adults?
One portion of vegetables for adults is approximately 80g.
This could be 3 heaped tablespoons of cooked carrots, peas or sweetcorn, or 1 cereal bowl of mixed salad.
Children require different portion sizes, but as a rough guide, 1 serving is the amount that fits into the palm of their hand.
Three heaped tablespoons of beans and other pulse vegetables, such as kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas, count as 1 portion. Beans and pulses count as a maximum of 1 portion a day, however much you eat. This is because they do not give the same mixture of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as other fruit and vegetables.
Do potatoes count as 1 of my 5 A Day?
Potatoes, yams, cassava and plantain are vegetables, but don’t count towards your 5 A Day. This is because they mainly contribute starch to your diet and tend to be higher in Calories, which may not be helpful if you’re trying to control or lose weight.
Other root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips, are usually eaten as a vegetable alongside the main starchy food in a meal. These count towards your 5 a Day fruit and veg portions.
Do juices and smoothies count towards my 5 A Day?
Unsweetened 100% fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should only be 1 portion of your 5 A Day. This is because a lot of fibre is lost during the juicing process and because juicing also releases the sugars in fruit and veg, which increases tooth decay and may also promote fat storage if too much is consumed.
Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150ml a day – which is a small glass.
Can I just eat 5 portions of my favourite fruit or vegetable?
Yes, but to get the maximum benefits, you need to eat different types of fruit and vegetables. This variety is important because different fruit and vegetables contain different combinations of fibre, minerals and other nutrients. You should aim to include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in your 5 A Day to get the most nutritional benefit.
Do the fruit and vegetables in takeaways count towards my 5 A Day?
Yes, they can count towards your 5 A Day. But takeaways and other ready made convenience foods can be high in added fat, salt and sugar, so only eat them occasionally or in small amounts. To find out the fat, salt and sugar content of ready made meals, check the label. Many labels in the UK are now colour coded, so look for labels with green symbols rather than amber or red – think Traffic Lights!
Do vitamin pills or sports and dietary supplements count towards my 5 A Day?
No. Taking dietary supplements does not have the same health benefits as eating more fruit and vegetables.
Fruit and vegetables contain additional beneficial substances, such as fibre. For most adults, a healthy and balanced diet containing at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day will contain all the nutrients needed.
Some people may be advised to take a supplement by their doctor, as well as eating a varied, balanced diet. For example, women who are trying to conceive or who are likely to become pregnant are advised to take a daily 400 microgram (mcg) supplement of folic acid until the 12th week of pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
Can I give my baby fruit and vegetables during weaning?
Mashed or soft pieces of fruit and vegetables make ideal foods to give your baby when they start having solid foods, and are easy to prepare.
Weaning is a good time to gradually introduce your baby to a variety of fruit and vegetables, so that by the time they are 1 year old, their diet is mixed and varied.
And hopefully, you’ll encourage lifelong healthy eating habits!
Captain Felix Deer joined the Army in 1985 and served in a number of Training Officer roles, qualifying as a Unit Fitness Officer in 1986. Since leaving the Army in 1994, Felix has sold property, built houses and flown airliners for a living, but has always maintained his keen interest in Fitness.