Fruit and vegetables are part of a balanced diet and can help us stay healthy. That’s why it so important that we get enough of them. 5 A DAY highlights the health benefits of getting five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day. That’s five portions of fruit and veg altogether, not five portions of each.
Five reasons to get five portions
- Fruit and vegetables taste delicious and there’s so much variety to choose from.
- They’re a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium.
- They’re an excellent source of dietary fibre, which helps maintain a healthy gut and prevent constipation and other digestion problems. A diet high in fibre can also reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
- They can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
- Fruit and vegetables contribute to a healthy and balanced diet.
Fruit and vegetables are also usually low in fat and calories (provided you don’t fry them or roast them in lots of oil). That’s why eating them can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart healthy.
5 A DAY is based on advice from the World Health Organization, which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
To get the most benefit out of your 5 A DAY, your five portions should include a variety of fruit and vegetables. This is because different fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your 5 A DAY. Potatoes and cassava don’t count because they mainly contribute starch to the diet.
Getting your 5 A DAY is easy. There are plenty of ways to add more fruit and vegetables to your everyday eating habits.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- At breakfast, add fruit to cereal, porridge or lower-fat yoghurt. Try a handful of berries or a chopped banana. Add mushrooms or tomatoes to scrambled eggs.
- Frozen fruit and veg count towards your 5 A DAY. It only takes a couple of minutes to microwave some frozen peas, mixed vegetables or mini corn on the cob.
- Canned fruit and veg count too. It’s healthier to choose fruit canned in juice rather than sugary syrup, and veg canned in water without added salt or sugar.
- It’s easy to add fresh, frozen or canned fruit and veg to meals. Sprinkle sweetcorn or pineapple chunks on top of a thin-based pizza, or liven up soups and sauces with a handful of kidney beans, peas or sweetcorn.
- Add fruit and veg to your favourite meals. Try adding chopped carrots to bolognese sauce, sprinkle chopped red peppers on your pasta, or mix veg such as peas into mashed potato to make it even tastier. Add tomatoes to your omelette or mushrooms to your next stir-fry.
- Add some crunch to your sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber or grated carrots.
Sticks of cucumber, peppers and carrot, and cauliflower or broccoli florets are delicious with dips such as salsa or lower-fat cheese spread.
- Swap sugary snacks, such as biscuits, for a piece of fruit. There are lots of healthy snack ideas in the Change4Life snack swapper.
- Add beans, lentils and pulses to stews, bakes and salads. However much you eat, beans and pulses count as a maximum of one portion a day.
- Have a salad or vegetable side dish with your main meal. If you’re having shepherd’s pie, have some peas too. If you’re having a roast dinner, add some carrots or broccoli to your plate.
- One glass (150ml) of unsweetened 100% fruit juice counts towards your 5 A DAY. Fruit or vegetable juice counts as a maximum of one portion a day.
- Make a quick smoothie in a blender using your favourite fresh or frozen fruits. A smoothie containing all of the edible pulped fruit or vegetable can count as up to two portions a day, depending on how it’s made.
Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your 5 A DAY, making it easier than you may think to get your recommended amount each day.
Fruit and vegetables don’t have to be fresh to count as a portion. Nor do they have to be eaten on their own: they also count if they’re part of a meal or dish.
A wide varietyTo get the most benefit from your five portions, eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.
What counts towards 5 a Day?
- Fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Frozen fruit and vegetables.
- Tinned or canned fruit and vegetables. Buy the ones tinned in natural juice or water, with no added sugar or salt.
- Dried fruit, such as currants, dates, sultanas and figs.
- Fruit and vegetables cooked in dishes such as soups, stews or pasta dishes.
- A glass (150ml) of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice. Juice counts as a maximum of one portion a day, however much you drink. That’s mainly because juice contains less fibre than whole fruits and vegetables.
- Smoothies. A smoothie containing all of the edible pulped fruit and/or vegetable may count as more than one portion but this depends on how it’s made. Smoothies count as up to a maximum of two portions per day.
- Beans and pulses. These only count as one portion a day, no matter how many you eat. That’s because they contain fewer nutrients than other fruits and vegetables.
- Fruit and veg in convenience foods, such as ready meals and shop-bought pasta sauces, soups and puddings. Some ready-made foods are high in salt, sugar and fat, so only have them occasionally or in small amounts. You can find the salt, sugar and fat content of ready-made foods on the label.
Do potatoes count towards 5 A DAY?
Potatoes are a starchy food, and a great source of energy, fibre, B vitamins and potassium.
In the UK we get a lot of our vitamin C from potatoes because, although they only contain between 11-16 mg of vitamin C per 100g of potatoes, we generally eat a lot of them.
When eaten as part of a meal, potatoes are generally used in place of other sources of starch, such as bread, pasta or rice. Because of this, they don’t count towards your 5 A DAY.
Other vegetables that don’t count towards your 5 A DAY are yams, cassava and plaintain: they are also usually eaten as starchy foods.
Sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips do count toward your 5 A DAY, because they are usually eaten in addition to the starchy food part of the meal.
Potatoes play an important role in your diet, particularly if they aren’t cooked with salt or fat, even if they don’t count towards your 5 A DAY. They’re also a good source of fibre, so leave the skins on where possible to keep in more of the fibre and vitamins. For example, if you’re having boiled potatoes or a jacket potato, make sure you eat the skin too.
5 A DAY on the run
If your life keeps you on the run – working late, travelling often, always busy – it might seem hard to eat enough fruit and vegetables. But make a few easy changes and you can fit 5 A DAY into the busiest schedule.
When you eat out, it can be hard to know exactly how much, if any, fruit and veg is in your food. Ready-made meals often contain less fruit and vegetables (and more fat and sugar) than the meals you’d cook for yourself.
All that can mean trouble when it comes to getting your 5 A DAY. But a few easy habits, and a little planning ahead, can help you increase the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat.
12 tips to help you lose weight on the plan
1. Don’t skip breakfast
Research shows that eating breakfast helps you control your weight. Some people skip breakfast as they think it will help them loose weight but missing meals doesn’t help us lose weight and isn’t good for us because we can miss out on essential nutrients. It could also encourage us to snack more throughout the day because you feel hungry’. Check out five healthy breakfasts.
2. Eat regular meals
Some people think missing meals will help them lose weight, but it has been shown that eating regularly during the day helps to burn calories at a faster rate as well as reduce the temptation to snack on foods high in fat and sugar. Find out more about eating heathily.
3. Eat plenty of fruit and veg
Fruit and veg are low in calories and fat and high in fibre – three essential ingredients for successful weight loss. They also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals. Read up on getting your 5 A Day.
4. Get more active
Studies show that regular activity is key to losing weight and keeping it off. As well as providing numerous health benefits, exercise can help burn off the excess calories you can’t cut through diet alone. Find an activity you enjoy and are able to fit into your routine.
5. Drink plenty of water
People sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. You can end up consuming extra calories when a glass of water is really what you need. You should aim to drink about six to eight glasses (1.2 litres) of fluid, preferably water, every day – or more if it’s warm or you’re exercising.
6. Eat high-fibre foods
Foods containing lots of fibre will keep you feeling full for longer, which is perfect for losing weight. Fibre is only found in food from plants, such as fruit and veg, oats, wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta, beans, peas and lentils.
7. Read food labels
Knowing how to read food labels can help you choose healthier options, and keep a check on the amount of calories, fat, salt and sugars you eat. Use the calorie information to work out how a particular food fits into your daily calorie allowance on the weight loss plan. Find out more about reading food labels.
8. Use a smaller plate
Studies show that people who use smaller plates tend to eat smaller portions and still be satisfied. By eating with smaller plates and bowls, you may be able to gradually get used to eating smaller portions without going hungry. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it’s full, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.
9. Don’t ban foods
Don’t ban any foods from your weight loss plan, especially the ones you like. Banning foods will only make you crave them more. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy the occasional treat as long as you stay within your daily calorie allowance.
10. Don’t stock junk food
To avoid temptation, avoid stocking junk food, such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweet fizzy drinks, at home. Instead, stock up on healthy snacks, such as fruit, unsalted rice cakes, oat cakes, unsalted or unsweetened popcorn and fruit juice.
11. Cut down on alcohol
Did you know a standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same calorie count as a packet of crisps? Over time, drinking too much can easily contribute to weight gain. Find out more about calories in alcohol.
12. Plan your meals
Plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week, making sure you stick to your calorie allowance. Try to plan for four to seven days’ worth of meals and snacks. Make a shopping list, but don’t shop when you’re hungry as that can lead to high-calorie impulse buys!