What Counts as your 5 a Day?

What Counts as your 5 a Day?
Few health facts are as well known as the one dictating that each person needs to take in at least five separate pieces of fruit and veg per day. Let’s look at this issue a little closer, including the ever-present question – just how can we fit five portions in to our diets, day in, day out? It sounds like quite a challenge, but can be achieved easier than you might think…

What counts towards the five a day?
At the most basic level, any kind of fresh, frozen, tinned or dried fruit and vegetables count towards the five a day rule. One portion is usually around a handful, so that's the equivalent of a piece of fruit or a small serving of carrots, peas or sweetcorn. Oh, and it has to be five DIFFERENT servings: eating five apples doesn't count!

Do juices and smoothies count?
They can. However, the juice or smoothie must be 100% made from the fruit or veg: if there's anything added at all, then they’re scrubbed from the list (treat anything labelled ‘fruit juice drink’ as something to avoid). Innocent Smoothies are a good example of ones that do count. It's worth noting, mind, that eating the fruit and veg whole is still preferable: juicing can squash the natural sugars out of the food, meaning that they can be bad for your teeth if consumed excessively. Some veg and fruit works better for juicing than others.

Can I cheat?
Not really – the requirement for five separate portions doesn’t change. But you can embrace some simple recipes which include fruit and vegetables without anyone really noticing. Baked beans on toast bags one, as does topping cereal with a banana. If you love eggs, another clever method is to hard boil a couple, scoop out the yolks, and add a filling – sun dried tomatoes with some fresh basil gives it an Italian twist. It’s a veggy version of the classic deviled eggs recipe, which can you follow easily enough on the Kraft website.

Can I include pulses?
In some cases, yes, pulses can be part of the daily amount. Kidney beans, lentils and chick peas, in particular, all count. However, they can only constitute one serving altogether, as they don't offer quite the same mix of vitamins and materials that fruit and vegetables do.  A big plate of the three pulses above is still only one!

Do potatoes count?
Ha, nice try! No, potatoes don't count: they're considered a starchy food much akin to rice and pasta. If you're obsessed with mash, roasts and chips then consider the merits of sweet potatoes, which are similar but are much better for you in the long run. And they do count.

That seems like a lot, I only eat three meals a day!
Understandable: one of the problems that people have is trying to squeeze all that veg and fruit in, especially if they're not big fans of the stuff anyway. These recipes represent a good way to get a good couple of the five in without much effort:

Spaghetti bolognese. One of the glorious things about spag bol is that when you get the sauce right, it can disguise almost anything, especially if you use good meat, which is full of flavour. You could easily include a chopped up mushroom or pepper (or indeed both) within the mix without even really noticing that they were there. Add the chopped tomatoes used to make the sauce and a fruit salad for pudding, and you’ve got all five in one meal!

Curries. Again, the sheer spice and flavour within your standard curry sauce make it ideal for disguising the tastes that you're not so keen on. Mushrooms, peppers and even fruits such as apple and pineapple can be used to give a curry a bit more flavour, without spoiling the savoury (and delicious) overall taste.

The Verdict
Once you know exactly what the five a day constitutes, it becomes easier to work out little ways to include them. If you’re struggling then start slow: do a week making sure you have one a day, then two, then three. Within six weeks, you’ll be easily meeting your requirements.