Getting your five-a-day

Updated: Mar 7

We all know that we're supposed to eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, but do you know why you're supposed to eat this number? Five a day refers to the recommendation to consume five portions of fruits and vegetables every day because it has been shown this quantity gives us the right amount of vitamins, minerals and fibre to keep us fit and healthy. It can help us to maintain a healthy weight, thereby avoiding obesity and to avoid various other diseases later in life. Therefore, having lots of different fruits and vegetables is a great habit to get into and it's a brilliant habit to try and teach our children as young as possible so that they can carry it into adulthood.


What should we be having as our five a day and how big is a portion? This can be quite confusing but there is a really simple way to know what portion size you should be having: about a handful. An adult should have an adult handful of whatever fruit or vegetable they are eating, and a child should have a child sized handful. For example, an adult handful of cherry tomatoes is probably about 6 cherry tomatoes and that would count as one of your five a day. Fruits and vegetables should make up about a third of our diet.



It is important to try and eat a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables; typical advice is to try and eat the rainbow, including fruits and vegetables that are all different colours and textures so that you get a good variety. For example, you might enjoy apples, avocado, carrots or peppers but there are things other than just fresh fruit and vegetables which count towards your five a day. For example, canned vegetables like sweetcorn are great as a portion of fruit and vegetables. Baked beans also count as one of your five a day especially if you choose the low sugar and salt varieties then that's a great way to get your children a portion of fruit and veg in their diet.


Fruit juice can count as one portion of fruit but only one portion no matter how much you drink in a day. The reason for this is because fruit juice doesn't contain the fibre that you would get if you ate a whole apple compared to drinking it as apple juice. The advice is to just stick to one portion of about 150 millilitres fruit juice a day. Frozen vegetables, e.g. peas, also count towards your five a day; also dried fruit counts too. Again, it is best to stick to just one portion a day from dried fruits like raisins, apricots, cranberries or dates: they're all great as a portion of fruit but the sugar in them is much more concentrated in dried fruit than in fresh fruit so from a point of view dental health it's best to avoid having too much dried fruit and to try and have it with a meal.



Some children are not particularly keen on eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables but don't worry too much about this now: try and get them to eat as good a variety as possible but do have faith that in time they will gradually start to eat a wider range. Keep offering a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to your children because only through constant exposure will they learn to like them. Also try to model eating them yourself so that they see that they are healthy and tasty and fun to consume.


There are a couple of different schools of thought on how to encourage your children to eat different fruits and vegetables: one very popular way is to hide them in your child's food and that is a really great way to make sure they are getting the vitamins and minerals and fibre that they need. The only concern is that they don't learn to recognise the vegetables by doing this: they might get to be a little bit familiar with the flavour because it's hidden in a pasta sauce, but they don't get to learn to be familiar with its appearance and texture so it's a good idea to do a combination of the two. Keep offering them the recognisable fruits and vegetables on a regular basis but also sneak a bit into their diet if that makes you feel better about how much fruit and vegetables they are having.


Recent studies have shown that showing your child pictures of fruits and vegetables and how they grow, are harvested, collected and delivered to us is a good way to increase familiarity. Depending on your child’s age there are some lovely books available about food production and how our food comes to us. The more familiar you can get your children with fruits and vegetables and where they come from then the more likely they are to give them a try.

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