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What counts as your 5 a day?

We hear over and over again that eating our 5 A Day intake of fruit and vegetables is important for our nutrition, reducing health risks and maintaining a stable diet. The tricky part can be knowing what to choose - here are Jane's top tips!

Statistics released by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey in 2014 revealed that only three in ten British adults aged between 19 and 64 meet the five-a-day target, with most only eating around four portions a day. By following the advice below you’ll be able to chose your 5 A Day with ease and know that you're aiding your diet and general health.

How much is too much?

To put it simply, try and have five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day. That's five portions of fruit and vegetables in total, not five portions of each. This recommendation is based on advice from the World Health Organization, which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables. Why is this so important? Research has shown that having your five a day can lower the risk of serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, obesity and heart disease and some cancers.  You also get essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and nutrients from eating fruit and vegetables. As most fresh fruit and vegetables are low in fat and calories, your 5 A Day target can also help you maintain a healthy weight and heart. The best advice is to eat as many different coloured fruits and vegetables as you can - think of your plate as a rainbow - then you’ll receive a wider range of nutrients.

A world of choice 

So you’re standing in a shopping aisle or looking in your cupboard, what do you chose? The great news is that you have so many options as almost all fruit and vegetables count in your 5 A Day whether they are fresh, cooked, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced. They also don’t have to be eaten on their own, remember that they count as part of a meal or dish. For example if you’re making a stew, pasta or soup and vegetables are included in the recipe, these can count towards your 5 a day. Just be careful, as some fruits contain high levels of fructose and higher calories; and some starches, like potatoes, shouldn’t be included at all in your 5 A Day allocation. 

5 A Day options with some extra guidance

  • Frozen fruit and vegetables (80g)
  • Tinned or canned fruit and vegetables in natural juice or water with no added sugar or salt (avoid those in syrup)
  • Bowl of salad
  • 5cm stick of cucumber
  • Dried fruit, such as currants, dates, sultanas and figs (1 heaped tbsp) But note they are higher in sugar so best had as a weekly treat rather than every day
  • Beans and pulses added to meals (3 tbps) – remember these only count as one of your 5 a day, no matter how much you have
  • Sweet potatoes, swedes parsnips, and turnips (80g) – remember potatoes do not count as your 5 a day, neither do yam, cassava or plantain
  • A smoothie containing all edible pulped fruit or vegetables – remember to count the number of fruits and vegetables you are adding into your smoothie – they can add up without you noticing
  • One glass (150ml) of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice. Juice counts as a maximum of one portion a day, even if you have more than one glass. This is because juice contains less fibre than whole fruits and vegetables and crushing fruit into juice also releases the sugars, which can cause damage to teeth
  • 1 Apple
  • 1 Pear 

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