The NHS recommends a minimum of five servings of fruit and veg a day – but what does that really mean?
We all know a varied diet is a key factor to good health and is particularly important as we age. Fruits and vegetables offer vitamins and minerals, fibre and antioxidants – all of which can help keep us on form and help fight off diseases.
But for all that, a huge portion of the adult population in the UK is falling short of the daily recommended guidelines – a YouGov poll in 2012 found just one in five people were meeting the daily requirements.
The good news is, fitting in five portions of fruit and veg isn’t as hard – or expensive – as you think. Adding them to your diet is as simple as making a few adjustments and can help with everything from energy levels to weight maintenance.
What’s a serving anyway?
First thing’s first – how much is a serving? Many people get stuck at the first hurdle, thinking it’s impossible to accommodate so many servings because they’re so large.
As a rule, a “serving” means 80 grams or 3oz of fruit and vegetables, which is roughly the size of an apple or a 2-inch piece of cucumber. Cooked, raw or canned – it all counts, so rather than trying to reimagine your entire lifestyle, start small by looking for ways to sneak an extra serving in to the dishes you already love and prepare regularly.
For example, adding banana slices to your toast in the morning or blueberries to your oatmeal is an opportunity to sneak a serving in. A can of chopped tomatoes or some broccoli added to your pasta sauce is another easy solution.
Sometimes though, if it looks to good to be true, it is – although many processed and takeaway foods may have fruit and vegetables in them and advertise as one of your five servings, they are also high in sugar, salt and fat, so be sensible. Piling your plate high with your favourite creamy mash won’t do it either – potatoes are high in starch and don’t count towards one of your five a day.
Easy fruit and vegetable servings
To help get you started, we’ve put together a list of a few of our favourite fruits and vegetables and how much you need to eat to get a serving in. Mix and match from the list and before you know it you’ll regularly be eating your five a day without even noticing…
1 serving of fruit equals:
- 1 medium sized apple
- A handful of grapes
- 7 strawberries
- 1 banana
- 3 whole dried apricots
- Half an avocado
- 2 handfuls of raspberries
- Half a grapefruit
- 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree
1 serving of vegetables equals:
- 5 spears of asparagus
- 2 spears of broccoli
- 1 leek
- 14 button mushrooms
- 2 heaped tablespoons of spinach
- 1 large sweet potato
- Half a pepper
- 1 medium onion
- Half a large courgette
- 1 dessert bowl of mixed leaves lettuce
So tell us: how often do you eat your five a day?