• Ona Croft Nurse

Nutrition - Are you consistently consuming your 5-a-day?

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

We all know we should be consuming 5 portions of fruit/vegetables every day, as part of a healthy and balanced diet, but do you manage that? Do you even know what counts as one of your “5-a-day”? And did you know that 5 portions is the minimum amount you should aim for, with some nutrition experts recommending you aim for 7!

An 80g portion of fruit or vegetables counts as one of your 5-a-day, and ideally you should include a wide variety of both fruit and veg across your diet. As a guide, an 80g portion is about 3 tablespoons and will fit in the palm of your hand, but there are certain items that don’t count. For example, 150 mls of fruit juice or fruit smoothie counts as one portion, but if you drink 500mls of fruit juice, it still only counts as one portion. And potatoes, although they contain important nutrients, don’t count either as they usually replace the starchy part of the meal.

There are lots of ways you can achieve your 5-a-day, and as well as buying fresh, you should consider how to incorporate frozen, tinned (fruit in juice, not syrup) and dried fruit (30g is equivalent to 80g fresh fruit) and veg.

Here are just a few suggestions to help you incorporate your daily portions:

1. Add a portion of fruit to your breakfast.

  • Add a mashed banana to your morning round of toast. Add some peanut butter for some bonus protein and healthy fats.

  • Add a portion of berries or raisins to your cereal or porridge.

  • Add a whole piece of fruit such as an apple or banana to your normal breakfast choice. This one is great if you’re rushed in the morning, or often avoid breakfast.

  • Add a glass of 150mls unsweetened fruit juice. Dilute it with water for a boost to your daily water intake.

  • Add a portion of mushrooms or tomatoes to your scrambled eggs on toast

2. Swap out a less healthy snack for some fruit or veg. These options are far more nutritious, and are often less calorific that a chocolate bar, packet of crisps or biscuits:

  • A portion of cherry tomatoes or grapes.

  • An apple (chop it up and serve with a few sticks of cheese or some peanut butter to make it a bit more filling).

  • A portion of berries make a lovely snack, especially when added to some plain yoghurt (check low fat flavoured yoghurt for hidden added sugar).

  • Hummus and veggie sticks (try carrot, cucumber or peppers).

3. Squeeze in some extra veggies at lunchtime.

  • Add mashed avocado, chopped tomatoes and spring onion to toast, or try a portion of baked beans.

  • A salad is a great way to pack in those vegetables – the BBC good food website has some great recipes

  • Add some tomato, cucumber, peppers and lettuce to your daily sandwich. Even better, add a small side salad (it’s a lot less messy that way).

  • Lentil or vegetable soup, although be cautious of soups with added sugar and salt.

4. Dinner is often where we consume most of our vegetables, and it can be simple to squeeze in an extra portion to the meals you already cook. Remember, a portion is 80g, so if you’re cooking for 4, you need 320g of veg in there to ensure you’re all getting a full portion. And if you pack the meal full of vegetables, you can often add less meat, which is good for the planet.

  • Add grated/finely diced carrot, mushrooms, chopped peppers or a handful of lentils to your bolognaise.

  • Add mushrooms, carrot, peas, peppers, broccoli, sweetcorn, cabbage or spinach to a stir fry.

  • Add kidney beans, peppers, tomatoes, sweetcorn, grated carrot, mushrooms or spinach to your chilli or fajitas. Or serve with some homemade guacamole for a real treat.

  • Add extra root veg, peas, lentils, pickled onions or a tin of tomatoes to your normal stew recipe.

  • Add some extra vegetables to your favourite omelette recipe, or serve with a small side salad.

  • Swap your normal baked potato for a sweet potato, and add a side salad and some baked beans and you might hit 2 of your 5-a-day in one go.

  • Get creative with your usual cheese or pepperoni pizza, and add sweetcorn, peppers, spinach, olives, or extra tomato.

  • Swap pudding for some fruit kebabs, or fruit and yoghurt.

5. If you meal plan, try and incorporate “meat free Monday” into your schedule.

Plenty of food for thought, so why not challenge yourself to increase your normal fruit/veg intake by one portion daily. The more fruit and vegetables you can eat, the better for your overall health.

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