If an alien landed on Planet Earth and went on to assume human form, he, she or it would undoubtedly come across the campaign in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States to encourage the consumption of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily – yes, the 5 A Day campaign.
Why 5 A Day?
Fruit and vegetables are part of a healthy balanced diet and it’s important we eat enough of them. The 5 A Day campaign is based upon advice from the World Health Organisation who suggests that there are significant health benefits of getting at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg daily.
That’s five portions in total not five portions of each fruit or veg you consume! To get the most out of your 5 A Day, your portions should ideally include a variety. This is because fruit and veg all contain different combinations of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Also, it is definitely more interesting eating an assortment. After all, variety is the spice of life, so they say!
- Almost all fruit and veg count towards your 5 A Day. They can be fresh, frozen canned, dried or juiced. We’re even told (by the makers) that a portion of a tin of baked beans is one of our 5 A Day. The benefits of a handful of fairly tasteless haricot beans drenched in tomato juice might be outweighed by the amount of sugar added but that’s what it says on the tin.
- Beans and pulses actually count as one of your 5 A Day, but only as one portion no matter how many you eat. They are a great source of fiber but contain fewer nutrients than other fruit and veg. Three heaped tablespoons count as one portion a day.
- Sadly potatoes don’t count because they are classified as starchy food, usually instead of rice, pasta or bread. Shame ‘cos I love potatoes. They do contain vitamins and other nutrients so go ahead and include them.
- If you choose frozen or canned products, try to avoid the ones with added sugar and salt and go for water or juice instead.
- An ounce (30g) portion of dried fruit counts as one portion. Due to the sugar content, the impact on the teeth can be detrimental so try eating as part of a meal instead of a snack.
- Fruit juice and smoothies are another way of getting your 5 A Day. Beware of the sugar content and limit yourself to the recommended 5 oz (150ml) per day. Try diluting with water to make the juice go further.
- A good old fry-up with leftover vegetables may count as one of the 5 A day but if you’re going to enhance your healthy greens with fat or oil make sure you choose healthy cooking oils.
5 A Day portions
An adult portion is about 3 oz or 80g of fresh, frozen, canned fruit or vegetables. It’s an ounce if it’s dried or 5 if you’re having juice. The guide below will give you an indication of typical portion sizes for adults.
5 A Day fresh fruit
1. Small size fruit
One portion is two or more small fruit like plums, satsumas, kiwis, or a good handful of strawberries or raspberries.
2. Medium size fruit
Fruits here include an apple, banana, pear, orange or nectarine.
3. Large fresh fruit
One portion is half a grapefruit, slice of melon or pineapple.
4. Dried fruit
The daily portion of dried fruit is 1 oz. This roughly equates to a heaped tablespoon of raisins, currants or sultanas, a couple of figs or approx 3 prunes or dates.
As dried fruit can be quite concentrated in sugar which could impact your teeth, have as part of a meal, as a dessert for example, rather than a snack.
5. Tinned or canned fruit
One portion is roughly the same as you would eat for a fresh portion. Try the non-syrup varieties to go easy on the teeth.
5 A Day vegetable portions
1. Green vegetables
Two broccoli spears, 4 heaped tablespoons of cooked kale, spinach, spring greens or green beans count as one portion.
2. Cooked vegetables
Three heaped tablespoons of carrots, peas, sweetcorn or half a dozen cauliflower florets.
3. Salad vegetables
Three sticks of celery, a 2 inch (5cm) piece of cucumber, a large tomato or half a dozen cherry tomatoes.A cereal bowl of mixed salad leaves.
4. Tinned or frozen vegetables
Roughly the same as you would eat for a fresh portion but choose canned in water with no added salt or sugar.
Tips and tricks to help overcome the excuses of eating 5 A Day
Fruit and veg are always so expensive
- Buy loose rather than pre-packaged so you buy just what you need
- Choose products in season as they’ll be cheaper
- Local markets are often cheaper. Opt for supermarket own brands to keep costs down
I’ve got no time to shop
- Stock up on frozen or tinned varieties
- Watch out for low salt and sugar products
- Dried fruit keeps well and can be added to cereal and other recipes
My family don’t like the taste of fruit and veg
- Try adding veg like grated carrot, chopped peppers, or sweet corn to your meals such as stir-fries, stews and even pizzas
- Pureed veg works as a good thickener for sauces and soups
- Mashing carrots, swede or parsnips with potato is another option
- Cut stuff into bite-size pieces to make them more appealing
I take vitamin pills so don’t need to worry
- Taking dietary supplements doesn’t seem to have the same health benefits as eating real fruit and veg
- Fruit and veg contain fiber, vitamins and minerals. All great for the body
Small changes make a difference
Here’s a friend of mine talking about the benefits he’s found from eating more fruit and veg.
“I started eating better after I found that my blood pressure had increased. I’m eating much more fruit and veg now. For breakfast, I add a banana on cereal whereas before, I would just add sugar. In the evenings, I used to guzzle biscuits like there’s no tomorrow, but now, I snack on grapes, oranges or raspberries.
We go shopping weekly now instead of monthly, which means we can buy fresh produce more regularly, And different varieties too – you don’t get bored that way!
I no longer take pills to keep my blood pressure down”.
“Anytime is a good time to get your five a day”
For our guide on life after 50, you might like this. https://midlifehacks.com/life-after-50/