The Department of Health, the NHS and the British Dietetic Association all recommend five portions of fruit and vegetables per day combined. For many people this seems impossible, for other this is too little, so just what is a portion size and where does this recommendation come from? Well here is some quick guidance as to what can be ‘qualified’ as one of your five a day.
· Fresh fruit and vegetables, in dishes or on the side
· Frozen fruit and vegetables, in dishes or on the side
· Tinned or canned fruit and vegetables. Where possible buy the ones tinned in natural juice or water, with no added salt, sugar or syrup.
· Dried fruit, such as sultanas, currants, dates, cranberries and figs.
· A 150ml glass of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice, counts as one of your five a day, but can only be counted once a day.
· Smoothies! Smoothies count as up to a maximum of two portions per day, provided that they are made with all of the edible parts of the fruit and not just the juice.
· Beans and pulses. Despite being a great source of protein, these only count as one portion a day, no matter how many you eat. This is because they contain fewer vitamins and minerals than other fruits and vegetables.
· Fruit and vegetables in convenience foods, such as ready meals and shop-bought pasta sauces, soups and puddings. However, many convenience foods are high in salt, sugar and fat, so try to use them as a last resort and stick to home cooking where possible.
· Sweet potatoes, swedes and parsnips do count towards your five a day, but potatoes, yams, plantains and cassavas do not, however they do provide as great sources of carbohydrates – so don’t leave them off the plate!
Taken from the NHS website, here is a guide of what constitutes a portions size of common fruits or vegetables. However a good rough guideline to follow and an easy one to remember is each portion, compressed, should be about the size of a clenched fist.
· Small-sized fresh fruit - One portion is two or more small fruit, for example two plums, two Satsumas, two kiwi fruit, three apricots, six lychees, seven strawberries or 14 cherries.
· Medium-sized fresh fruit - One portion is one piece of fruit, such as one apple, banana, pear, orange, nectarine or Sharon fruit.
· Large fresh fruit - One portion is half a grapefruit, one slice of papaya, one slice of melon (5cm slice), one large slice of pineapple or two slices of mango (5cm slices).
· Dried fruit - A portion of dried fruit is around 30g. This is about one heaped tablespoon of raisins, currants or sultanas, one tablespoon of mixed fruit, two figs, three prunes or one handful of dried banana chips.
· Tinned fruit in natural juice - One portion is roughly the same quantity of fruit that you would eat for a fresh portion, such as two pear or peach halves, six apricot halves or eight segments of tinned grapefruit.
· Green vegetables - Two broccoli spears or four heaped tablespoons of kale, spinach, spring greens or green beans.
· Cooked vegetables - Three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables, such as carrots, peas or sweet corn, or eight cauliflower florets.
· Salad vegetables - Three sticks of celery, a 5cm piece of cucumber, one medium tomato or seven cherry tomatoes.
· Tinned and frozen vegetables - Roughly the same quantity as you would eat for a fresh portion. For example, three heaped tablespoons of tinned or frozen carrots, peas or sweet corn.
· Pulses and beans - Three heaped tablespoons of baked beans, haricot beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, butter beans or chickpeas. However much you eat, beans and pulses count as a maximum of one portion a day.
The five portions of fruit and vegetables per day are recommended based on a varied diet, as a rough guideline to meet your daily vitamin, mineral and fibre requirements. Have a look back through some of my other postings for more information on the benefits of certain fruits and vegetables in relation to diseases prevention. So how many are you getting in each day?
Here are a few tips on how to get a few more portions into yours and your family’s diet to increase their dietary intake and instil some good habits to get into:
Breakfast – add dried fruit to cereal, and fresh fruit juices to the table. If having a breakfast smoothie, add in whole fruit, and even small portions of vegetables such as raw cabbage, cucumber or spinach. It won’t ruin the flavour, but will add in some more vitamins and minerals and increase its fibre content.
Lunch and Dinner – Add chickpeas, lentils and left over veg to stews and other dishes. If you have a picky family, pop all the veg in a food processor and then stir into the sauce to disguise, or top steamed vegetables with sauces to encourage their consumption.
Snacks – Make pre-prepared snacks that include chopped fresh fruit to pick at with a squeeze of lemon juice to stop it from spoiling, and chopped carrot, cucumber and celery sticks with a bit of hummus to encourage their consumption.
Home baking – try experimenting, many tasty recipes add in vegetables for depth of flavour and a little more health. Try parsnip cakes or beetroot brownies as a starting point!