Monday, January 25, 2016

5 A Day - Getting Five Fruit and Vegetables a Day

In these health-conscious times, most people know health officials recommend we all have at least five servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Unfortunately, most of us have no clue what counts as a portion or how we can easily incorporate these key elements of a healthy diet into our daily routine.

The benefits of adding more fruit and veg to your diet are well documented. Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre, all of which play an important role in keeping people healthy. To get the greatest benefit from your fruit and vegetable intake, it’s recommended that you purchase fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

First, it’s worth clarifying what counts as ‘fruit and vegetables’ so that you can try to count your daily servings:

1. Fresh, frozen, chilled, canned, 100% juice and smoothies.

2. Dried fruit and vegetables.

3. Vegetables in soup, stew, sandwiches and so on also count.

4. Potatoes and other starchy vegetables don’t count.

5. Fruit and vegetable-based vitamin supplements don’t count.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, how do you know when you’ve managed to get a full serving? As a general rule, a portion is around 80 grams. We’ve listed some of the most popular fruits and vegetables here for your reference:

1. Small fruits: two plums, satsumas or kiwis; three apricots; six lychees; seven strawberries; or 14 cherries.

2. Medium fruits: one banana, pear, orange, nectarine, or apple.

3. Larger fruits: half a grapefruit; one, two-inch slice of mango, papaya, or pineapple; or two, two-inch slices of mango.

4. Dried fruit: one tablespoon of raisins, currants, sultanas or mixed fruit; two figs; three prunes; or one handful of banana chips.

5. Tinned fruits: these should be measured more or less the same as their fresh counterparts.

6. Juices: one 150ml glass of 100% juice counts as a portion – however, juice only counts as one portion of fruit/veg each day.

7. Green vegetables: two spears of broccoli; four tablespoons of kale, spring greens or green beans; or eight Brussel sprouts.

8. Cooked vegetables: three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas or sweetcorn.

9. Salad vegetables: three sticks of celery; one two-inch slice of cucumber; one medium tomato; or, seven cherry tomatoes.

10. Tinned and frozen vegetables: these are measured more or less the same as their fresh counterparts.

11. Pulses and beans: three heaped tablespoons of baked beans, haricot beans, kidney beans, cannelloni beans, butter beans or chick peas. Remember that beans and pulses only count as one portion of fruit/veg each day, no matter how much you eat.

So, how do you get five portions of fruit and veg into your daily diet without rushing back and forth to your local greengrocer? Below are a few quick, easy steps you can take to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet:

1. Remember to count fruit and vegetables, and even herbs, in all your dishes – from pineapple on your pizza to vegetables in soup, they all add up.

2. Drink a glass of 100% juice or a fruit/vegetable smoothie each day.

3. Add a handful of peas, carrots or sweet corn to your soup.

4. Slice a banana or a few strawberries over your cereal in the morning.

5. Replace your mid-morning snack with an apple.

6. Swap celery or carrot sticks for crisps in the afternoon.

7. Add sliced cucumber or tomato to your sandwich.

8. Put extra chopped vegetables into your pasta sauce.

9. Throw a large handful of fresh herbs into your pasta, salad or homemade bread.

When you’re trying to add fruits and vegetables to your existing diet, remember that the best nutritional benefit comes from eating a variety of fruit and veg. One way to ensure you consume a good variety is to sort your fruits and vegetables by colour, and aim to eat at least one item from each group every day.

The groupings are:

1. White/yellow: onions, garlic, lemon and parsnips.

2. Orange/red: peppers, tomatoes, carrots, apricots, mango and satsumas.

3. Purple/red: aubergine, dark grapes, red cabbage, blueberries, plums and raisins.

4. Green: spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, watercress, parsley and mint.

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