By now, most of us are familiar with the Five-a-Day recommendation: eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day to help balance your diet. But a lot of us struggle with the fine detail – what actually counts as one of your Five-a-Day? Do fruit juices, sweet potatoes, or tinned food count? How many grapes, peas, or strawberries make one portion? How do you fit all five portions in over the course of the day?
Not to worry – here’s what you need to know about getting your Five-a-Day.
First things first: What is ‘Five-a-Day’ about, and what foods count towards it?
The ‘Five-a-Day’ rule comes from a recommendation by the World Health Organisation to eat at least 400g of fruit and veg each day. That number is a bit less daunting when you break it down to five 80g portions – which is where the slogan came in. So what counts as your Five-a-Day? Here’s a quick rundown of the rules:
- Fresh, frozen, chilled, and canned fruit and vegetables all count. Fill your boots!
- Fruit juices and purees made from 100% fruit (no added sugar or additives) count, but only once. Fruit juices are usually very high in sugar, so the NHS recommends having just one 150ml portion a day. The rest of your Five-a-Day portions should come from another source.
- Beans and pulses also only count once. Beans and pulses are great sources of protein and fibre, but they’re a little lacking in some other important vitamins and nutrients.
- Potatoes don’t count. Sadly, ordinary potatoes are considered ‘starchy foods’. Luckily, sweet potatoes, turnips and parsnips do count (and are delicious), so try mixing these into your mash! And if you’re looking to lower your cholesterol, adding a bit of Flora ProActiv Buttery would be a nice touch, too.
What are the official Five-a-Day portion sizes?
Knowing which fruit and vegetables can potentially count as one of your Five-a-Day is the easy part. Where it gets a little trickier is understanding how much of something to eat. Overall, you’re shooting for 80g per portion, or 30g for dried options. Here’s a quick guide to help – print it out and stick it on the fridge!
Five-a-Day portions for fruit
This is a rough guide – weigh your food for the final verdict. For a full list, click here.
Berries and smaller fruit:
- 4 heaped tablespoons of small berries, such as blueberries or blackcurrants.
- 14 grapes or cherries.
- 7 strawberries, cherry tomatoes, or canned peach slices.
Small to mid-sized fruit:
- 2 plums, figs, satsumas, or kiwis.
- 1 whole apple, banana, pear, orange, large tomato, or nectarine.
- ½ a grapefruit.
- 1 (5cm) melon, papaya, or fresh pineapple slice.
- 2 mango slices.
- 1 tablespoon of raisins.
- 3 dried apricots.
- 2 dried peach halves.
- 3 dates.
Five-a-Day portions for vegetables
- 1 cereal bowl of raw spinach, watercress, or lettuce.
- 4 heaped tablespoons of cooked spinach, kale, Chinese greens, or cabbage.
Small to mid-sized vegetables:
- 3 heaped tbsp. pulses, beans, peas, sweetcorn, or mushrooms.
- 5 fresh asparagus spears.
- 6-8 Brussels sprouts.
Mid to large-sized vegetables:
- Half an avocado, courgette, or pepper.
- 1 onion or (white portion only) leek.
- 8 florets of cauliflower or broccoli.
- 3 heaped tablespoons diced and cooked butternut squash, carrots, marrow, or pumpkin.
Finally, a few tips on getting your Five-a-Day
- Variety is key. Avoid eating too much of the same thing: a healthy (and exciting) diet is a varied diet! Try something different every few weeks, and explore new recipes.
- Add fruit and veg to soups, stews, curries – everything. Cook the meals you usually would, but add a little extra fruit or veg in along the way. Add fresh fruit to your bowl of cereal, have a side salad with your dinner, and throw extra carrots, beans, onion or chickpeas into your curries, stews, and casseroles.
- Be creative. Love fizzy drinks? Add a bit of sparkling water to your freshly squeezed orange juice. Craving pudding? Try this delicious baked apple recipe. Replacing not-so-healthy options with alternatives that count towards your Five-a-Day will make reaching your daily target easy-as-pie.
That’s it: with a little know-how, you can start getting your Five-a-Day in no time. Want more tips on healthy eating? Have a look at the Healthy Eating section of our site, or download our free Cholesterol Lowering Starter Kit here.