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Healthy Eating and the 5-a-day Fruit and Vegetable Principle

Image of a corn cobTo stay healthy a "fuel mix" that no single food can supply is necessary. Eating plenty of different foods is the best way to make sure you get enough of all the nourishment you need. Most people get all the vitamins and minerals they need from a balanced diet.

What counts towards 5-a-day?

Q. Does it have to be fresh fruit and vegetables?

A. No. Fresh, frozen, chilled, canned, 100% juice and dried fruit and vegetables all count. Aim for at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day.

Q. How much is one portion of fruit?

A. One portion of fruit is, for example, one medium apple, one medium banana, two small satsumas or three dried apricots. A glass of 100% fruit juice only counts once a day - however much you drink. One portion of dried fruit counts, but other types of fruit and vegetables should be eaten to meet the rest of the 5-a-day target.

Q. How much is one portion of vegetables?

A. One portion of vegetables is, for example, three heaped tablespoonfuls of cooked carrots, peas or sweetcorn, or one cereal bowl of mixed salad. Beans and other pulse vegetables, such as kidney beans, lentils and chick peas only count once a day - however much you eat. Potatoes don't count towards the 5-a-day target because they are a 'starchy' food.

Q. Can't I just get the same benefits from supplements?

A. No. Dietary supplements do not have the same benefits as eating more fruit and vegetables. Some people are advised to take a supplement, in addition to eating a varied, balanced diet. For example, women who may become pregnant are advised to take a daily supplement (400 micrograms) of folic acid.

Q. Do the fruit and vegetables in takeaways and ready meals count towards 5-a-day?

A. Yes. But some of these foods may be high in added fat, sugar or salt, and should only be eaten in moderation.

image of applesQ. Does it matter if I eat the same fruit and vegetables every day?

A. Different fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. So you should aim to include a variety of fruit and vegetables to get the most benefit.

Q. Why do fruit juices and pulses count only once, even if you have several portions of them?

A. Juice (fruit or vegetable) only counts as one portion a day, regardless of how much is drunk, because it has very little fibre. Also, the juicing process 'squashes' the natural sugars out of the cells that normally contain them, and this means that drinking juice in between meals isn't good for teeth. Pulses contain fibre, but they don't give the same mixture of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as fruit and vegetables. So in order to get a healthy balance, it is important to ensure that you get a variety of fruit and vegetables.

Questions about the 5-a-day Message

Q. What do consumers think about eating more fruit and vegetables?

A. Focus group research carried out for the |Department of Health suggests that there is a need for clear and helpful information that will help consumers increase the frequency and variety of fruit and vegetable consumption to achieve their recommended 5-a-day. The research suggests that:

  • Consumers think they are already eating enough fruit and vegetables.
  • They have difficulty with the notion of portions, in terms of size and numbers.
  • They need reassurance about choosing, cooking and eating vegetables.
  • Consumers, particularly women, associate fruit with looking healthy and being in good shape.
  • Consumers consider eating fruit as a snack or on its own, but are more likely to eat vegetables as part of a 'complete' meal.
  • They look for accessible, quick, easy, convenient foods, but are not necessarily aware that canned or frozen vegetables and fruit count towards 5-a-day.

Further Information

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