What counts as 5-a-day?

Eating a balanced diet, full of a variety of fruits and vegetables ensures that we get the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to stay fighting fit. The vitamins we get from fruits and veggies play an important role in every function of the body, from maintaining a healthy immune system and a strong heart, to clear skin, strong hair and nails, good eyesight and a healthy brain.

Despite the importance of including this food group in our diets, less than 10% of children aged between 11 and 18 years old achieve 5 portions a day (1). However, with a bit of savvy meal planning it is easy to hit that 5 a day without breaking the bank.

How much is a portion?

The government recommendation is that adults should eat 400g of fruit and vegetables as a minimum every day (2). This works out to be 80g per portion, however there are some exceptions.

For Fresh, frozen or tinned (try and avoid those in syrup) fruit, 80g is roughly equivalent to…

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 medium tomato or 7 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 orange
  • 2 Satsumas
  • 2 plums
  • 2 pineapple rings
  • 2 handfuls of raspberries/blueberries/strawberries

150ml fruit juice = 1 portion – BUT no matter how much you drink this will only ever provide 1 portion because when fruit is blended it releases the natural sugars which are bad for our teeth,  and blending also breaks down some of the fibre in fruit meaning some of the nutritional value is lost.

30g of Dried fruit (roughly the equivalent to 80g of fresh) also contributes 1 portion of your 5 a day. For example:

  • 1 heaped tbsp. raisins/cranberries
  • 2 dried figs
  • 3 dried dates

For fresh, tinned and frozen vegetables, 80g looks something like…

  •  7 asparagus spears
  • 3 heaped tbsp. peas/sweetcorn
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 8 florets of broccoli
  • 3 heaped tbsp. carrot slices/butternut squash chunks
  • 1 breakfast bowl full of fresh spinach
  • Half an avocado

3 tbsp of beans (tinned & drained, or cooked from dry) will also provide 1 portion of your 5 a day. However, beans can only contribute 1 portion because although they are high in fibre, they don’t contain as many vitamins as fruits and vegetables.

For more examples of what a portion looks like visit: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/5ADAY/Documents/Downloads/5ADAY_portion_guide.pdf

In practical terms, how do we fit this into our daily diets?

Below is just one example of a million ways that we can incorporate fruits and veg into our diets everyday…

Breakfast – A small glass of orange juice (1 portion), scrambled egg on brown toast with a handful of cherry tomatoes (1 portion)

Morning Snack – A banana (1 portion), small handful of nuts and a cup of tea

Lunch – Greek style chicken salad with feta cheese, olives, cucumber, tomatoes (1-2 portions) and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Dinner – Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers with avocado salsa (2 portions). Check this out in the recipes section!

For more advice, have a look on the links below, and check out the recipe section on this blog, where all recipes provide at least one of your 5 a day – without a single sad looking piece of lettuce in sight!

(1) http://www.foodafactoflife.co.uk

(2) http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/5ADAY/Pages/5ADAYhome.aspx