Our Nutritionist’s top tips for getting your 5-a-day fix
We all know the drill: 5 portions of fruit and veg everyday. But guess what? Most of us aren’t hitting the mark.
In fact, our research revealed that a huge 75% of people aren’t getting their 5-a-day fix. Out of the 2,010 people we surveyed, 48% said they hadn’t eaten five portions in a day in the past month and 22% hadn’t done so in an entire year!
So why is eating your 5-a-day so important? What’s so good about fruit and veg?
Well, to start with they’re packed full of essential nutrients that keep our bodies humming along smoothly. Eating more fruit and veg is even proven to lower our risk of heart disease, certain cancers and strokes.
What’s their secret, you ask? Let’s break it down
First off, they’re full of fibre – a nutrient we all need more of (aim for 30g a day!). Fibre not only keeps things moving in our digestive system but also slows down digestion, preventing blood sugar spikes and keeping us fuller for longer. As it travels through your gut, the friendly bacteria break it down, producing compounds that benefit our immune system and even our mental health (cue the happy hormone, serotonin!).
They’re also packed with vitamins and minerals which keep everything functioning healthily. For example, vitamin C boosts our immune system, vitamin A takes care of our eyesight and skin, and potassium keeps our blood pressure in check. Many of the vitamins found in fruit and veg are water-soluble which means they can’t be stored. Any excess we eat gets flushed out in our wee so it’s essential to keep replenishing our supply every day.
They’re also great for filling you up while being low in calories, making it easy to stay a healthy weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
Eating more plants is also a great way to help the planet. They have a lower environmental impact and some even enrich the soil they grow in. Be mindful of how far they’ve travelled though and choose local and seasonal when you can.
What counts as a portion?
Our survey found that the main barriers to eating your 5-a-day was that fruit and veg are too expensive in the cost of living crisis (36%), or that people didn’t know enough ways to pack in the fruit and veg (33%). Four in five also said they weren’t sure what constitutes a portion. So, what does count?
A lot of it is pretty straightforward – leafy greens, peas, tomatoes, aubergines, apples, bananas, the list goes on.
But guess what? You might be eating more portions than you think. Did you know that fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits and vegetables all count towards your 5-a-day? Canned and frozen options like tinned tomatoes or peaches are great — they’re cheap to buy and last for ages. Just be sure to choose canned fruit in juice rather than sugary syrup.
Don’t forget about the humble root veg too – they might not be so vibrant but they still pack a nutritional punch. Think parsnips, sweet potatoes, beetroot and even onions. Sadly, potatoes don’t make the cut — they’re high in vitamin C but we count them as starchy foods in our diets (and as a nation, we’re already eating plenty!) Little things add up too too like tomato puree, spring onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and fresh herbs.
As a general rule, a portion is about 80g or 30g for dried fruit. But don’t worry about weighing it all out — a decent handful is a pretty good estimate.
But here’s the challenge
You can’t count the same veg twice in one day. It really is all about variety. If you can, you should be aiming for 30 different plants a week! Different colours mean different vitamins and minerals, so we need to make sure we’re eating a rainbow. This has led to a few funny rules that it’s good to know about.
- Each type of fruit and veg only counts one – even if it’s a mix of tinned, frozen or fresh.
- Fruit juice is limited to one 150ml portion per day. That’s because the sugar in juice is quickly released into your bloodstream due to the fruit cells’ structure.
- Smoothies and soups count but when blended it can only count for a maximum of 2 portions for the same sugar reason as fruit juice.
- Pulses are great for fibre but lower in nutrients so it’s best to only count one portion of one type each day.
But fruit is high in sugar isn’t it? Should I eat more veg than fruit?
It is, that’s what makes it sweet! But that sugar is all locked up in the fruit (or veg) structure so it takes longer to break it down and enter your bloodstream, keeping your blood sugar stable. Plus, the vitamins, minerals and fibre-packed goodness of fruits far outweigh the sugar content. My advice? Don’t overthink it — we need to eat more of both.
Fun fact, as fruit ripens, the sugar content increases and the carbs break down from starch into sugar! So when a banana goes from green to yellow, the total carbs are the same but it’s increased in sugar.
Some final tips to help you pack in your 5-a-day
- Add a portion of fruit to your breakfast, whether it’s topping your cereal or your toast.
- Choose fruit or veggies for snacks like carrot sticks and hummus, apple slices with peanut butter or dried fruit.
- Freeze bananas that are on the turn and blitz them up into a delicious ice cream.
- Add a side salad or stir through a handful to your meals (spinach is great for this – it wilts down to practically nothing!)
- Don’t forget about the veg when you’re barbecuing — they can easily be grilled alongside your burgers and sausages.
- Choose fruit-based puddings (a drizzle of cream won’t hurt, and it still counts!)
Want to pack in your 5-a-day? We’ve done the thinking for you on this one.
With our new range, Veg Table, you’ll tuck into fruit and veg-packed feasts that come fully loaded with all 5 of your 5-a-day. You’ll be hitting that daily quota with ease.