Do you really know what counts toward your 5-a-day??
There are a lot of misconceptions about portion size and qualifying foods, and many health manufacturers are capitalising on this confusion with carefully-placed, highly misleading marketing. Tut tut.
So, to clarify..
One of your 5-a-day weighs around 70-80g of fruit or veg – that could be 3 tablespoon of peas, a handful of grapes, or a medium sized apple. Or it could be a combination of all three! Ideally, you are looking for 3 vegetables and 2 fruits, or 4 vegetables and 1 fruit. This is because vegetables tend to be lower in sugar, and contain a more complex range of vitamins and minerals.
It is good to eat as many different coloured fruits and vegetables as you can each day, to get the best possible chance of meeting vitamin and mineral needs. If you ate more than 80g of one particular food item that would still only count as one serving, because you are not achieving the range of vitamins and minerals you would get from eating three different fruit and veg.
So, just eating four cherry tomatoes will not count as one serving, that will count as 1/2, but if you also eat a satsuma you have achieved 1 of your 5-a-day, and a broader intake of nutrients!!
Combining foods is a great way to eat the rainbow!
Each of these counts as 1 of your 5-a-day:
- 1 medium sized carrot
- 15g of raisins (matchbox sized)
- 1/2 pepper (capsicum)
- 3 tablespoons of corn
- 2 kiwis, plums, or satsumas (any combination)
- 150ml orange juice
- 4 closed-cup mushrooms
Ways to buy:
Buying fresh fruits and veggies can be expensive, so the next time you go food shopping consider purchasing other forms including canned*, frozen and dried**.
*When buying canned fruit try to buy the kind in natural fruit juices, rather than syrup. And with canned vegetables take the ‘no added salt’ option!
**Be cautious with dried fruits – the drying process concentrates the sugar content resulting in a higher calorie value per gram so you only need 15g of raisins, or 3 dried apricots, to achieve one serving.
Juices and smoothies:
150ml of unsweeted 100% pure juice (from concentrate is fine) also counts as 1 serving, as does the same volume of fruit smoothie HOWEVER no matter how much juice you drink in whatever number of combinations it will only ever count as one serving. That is because the juicing process eliminates the precious fibre you find in the skin of fruits and vegetables, as well as destroying many of the minerals found in the skin of root vegetables!
Now, if you use tomato-based sauces for pastas, casseroles etc you will also be achieving 1 of your 5-a-day! Just be sure to check the sugar content on the label before diving into buying pre-made sauces. It is often cheaper and easier to make your own tomato sauce using passata or chopped tomatoes and some mixed herbs. You can freeze any excess too!
Additionally you can sneak extra veggies into many meals simply by cutting them up smaller or blending them to make a sauce. Good ones to use are: tomatoes, carrots, spinach, peas, corn, and mushrooms. This is particularly helpful when cooking for fussy eaters.
Mushrooms also make a great substitute for meat when money is running low, or you feel like a day off the chicken! They contain lots of vital minerals as well as protein and fibre, and are very low in calories. Portobello mushrooms stuffed with a little cream cheese and spring onions are really delicious. Top with some ground linseed for added Omega 3! More on linseed here: beahealthieryou.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/love-for-linseed-2/
Check out my recipes for ideas on how to use ripe bananas to make delicious, healthy desserts!!
What other ways can I get my 5-a-day?
Beans and pulses (such as lentils) also contribute to your 5-a-day, but only one serving can come from this food group, as they are not as nutrient-rich as fruit and veg. So, eating 3 tablespoons of lentils and 3 tablespoons of kidney beans would still only give you 1 of your 5, but you could combine the two to give you more variety i.e. 2 tablespoons of beans and 1 tablespoon of lentils!
Finally, onto potatoes..
Sweet potatoes and yams DO contribute towards your 5-a-day because they contain lots of great vitamins and minerals. Find more details here: http://youtu.be/BHJyN_uzvYs
White potatoes DO NOT count toward your 5-a-day because they are primarily made up of starchy carbohydrates and are high in calories. As they are eaten in such great quantities in the Western diet other vegetables are more valuable for improving your health.
There is nothing wrong with eating white potatoes, so long as you keep them as a carbohydrate source in your diet. If you do consume lots of potatoes be sure to keep the skins on whenever possible to preserve the lovely fibre, B vitamins, and potassium.
I hope this has been insightful for you.
Any questions or comments…?
You can find more information here: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/5ADAY/Pages/Whatcounts.aspx