Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Should we raise our five-a-day?

By Melanie Leyshon

If it’s not a rude question to ask, how much did you get yesterday? Two bowls of carrot soup, a rice veg pot and seven strawberries meant I just about scraped my five-a-day. And I’m not alone – only a quarter of the UK population meets the five-a-day target, so the call to increase this to seven-a-day and potentially double it to a massive 10 daily servings might seem a fruit and veg step too far.

And before we feel inferior to those from countries eating seven or eight portions a day, it’s good to know that all nations work to the same World Health Organization recommendation of 400g fruit and veg daily – it’s how the governments convey that message that is different. The Swedish mantra of eat fruit and vegetables every time you eat is a good one, while Australians have their 5:2 mantra of five veg and two fruit a day fixed in their brains.

The positive take on the 10-a-day headlines is that five-a-day is back in the news. Eating fruit and veg does help prevent obesity, cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and the new research by Health Survey for England, based on a survey of 65,000 people, is compelling about the risk of death and the amount of fruit and veg we eat. Out of the 4,300 people from this group who died during the eight-year survey follow-up, those who ate the least amount of fruit had the highest risk of death. Quite enough evidence to get us reaching for the fruit bowl and adding more vegetables to every meal – but don’t overdo the fruit juice or canned fruit in syrup. 

UK health experts have broken the 400g figure into five separate servings, each weighing 80g. If fruit is dried, a serving weighs 30g (the equivalent of 80g fresh fruit), while a serving of pure fruit or veg juice is 150ml (one small glass). Here’s what counts as one serving…

Fresh fruit
An 80g portion of fresh fruit is:
½ grapefruit
½ avocado
1 apple, orange, banana, pear, nectarine, mandarin or tomato
1 slice (5cm) of melon or mango
1 pineapple ring
1 handful of grapes
1 heaped tbsp tomato purée
2 plums, fresh figs, kiwi fruits, satsumas, clementines or tangerines
2 handfuls of raspberries or blueberries
3 apricots
3 heaped tbsp fruit salad
6 passion fruits
7 strawberries or cherry tomatoes
10 blackberries
14 cherries

a 30g portion of dried fruit is:
1 heaped tbsp raisins, sultanas, currants or cranberries
1 handful of banana chips
2 figs
3 prunes or apricots
4 apple rings
4 pieces of sundried tomato

an 80g portion of tinned fruit is:
(choose fruit in natural juices and not syrup)
2 pear halves
2 peach halves
2 pineapple rings
6 apricot halves
6 prunes
8 grapefruit segments
12 pineapple chunks

AN 80g portion of veg is:
¼ small cabbage
⅓ aubergine
½ large courgette
½ pepper
1 leek
1 medium onion
1 large parsnip
1 large sweet potato
1 corn-on-the-cob
1 cereal bowl of lettuce, spinach leaves or watercress
1 handful of mangetout or sugar snap peas
1 piece (5cm) of cucumber
2 heaped tbsp spinach
2 handfuls of beansprouts
2 broccoli florets
3 celery sticks
3 heaped tbsp pulses, peas, sweetcorn, chopped carrots, butternut squash or cabbage
3 baby beetroots
4 heaped tbsp spring greens, green beans, French beans or kale
4 large mushrooms
5 asparagus spears
6 baby corn
8 cauliflower florets
8 Brussels sprouts
8 spring onions
10 radishes
14 button mushrooms

For more information on portion sizes, download the September 2013 issue of Healthy Food Guide from iTunes


  1. I think some of the recommended portions need revising I had a clementine that weighed in at 72g, and an 80g banana/apple/pear is a very rare thing.

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