5-a-day portion sizes: What counts as a portion of fruit and vegetables?
All your 5-a-day portion size questions answered!
What do 5-a-day portion sizes look like? Read our handy guide to find out exactly what counts as a portion of your 5-a-day...
We know 5-a-day portion sizes are important but it isn't always easy knowing what counts as a portion of fruit and veggies.
We've put together this simple guide to make staying healthy easy. Especially due to the advice that we should be eating seven 5-a-day portions.
Fruit like apples and bananas are the easy ones- one piece equals one portion. However, it's the vegetables and smaller fruits where we get a little lost sometimes. For instance, you actually need to eat two satsumas, plums or kiwi fruits to make it up to a full portion?
For veggies and pulses, tablespoons and small handfuls are good measuring guides; three tablespoons of cooked vegetables or beans is roughly what you need.
To get you started here are some 5-a-day facts and some good basic measurements which count as a portion each for a helping hand when it comes to how to get your 5-a-day portion sizes
Is 5 a day enough?
We've been told to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day for as long as we can remember. It's something we've all been brought up with, but now it seems this number might be a little on the low side. We might have all heard the rumours of the 5 a day increasing to 7 a day but what about even higher?
Amanda Callenberg, nutritionist at YourZooki agrees. She says we really should be aiming more than this.
In fact, she reckons we should go for 7 portions of vegetables and 3 portions of fruit per day. That's 10 portions overall!
Why so many?
'The quality of produce we get today is quite poor and depleted of vital nutrients, so we need to be consuming a much higher amount of vegetables and fruit to ensure we are meeting our daily nutrient needs. We also need to think about fibre when we think about health. Fibre is abundant in plants and it has been shown that people who eat a fibre rich diet, and those who include 8 portions or more of vegetables and fruit have a much lower risk of suffering from many chronic diseases.'
Don't think this is achievable? It's actually far simpler than you think with our simple guide. There's also plenty of other surprising foods which count towards your 5 a day!
5-a-day portion sizes
Broccoli portion size
Measuring little bits of veg such as broccoli can be a little fiddly. Here you can see that eight spears of broccoli is all you need to tick off one of your five a day.
Want to know how to keep your fruit and veg fresher for longer? Click here...
Mushroom portion size
Mushrooms are great because they can be used in such a variety of dishes but you might not be eating quite enough for them to count as one of those important five.
You may think that by chucking a couple in a sandwich or a stir-fry you're getting all you need, but you actually have to eat a whopping 14 button mushrooms, or three handfuls of sliced mushrooms for them to count as one portion. Don't let that put you off though, we've got lots of delicious mushroom recipes
Great in salads and sandwiches, you need to eat 5cm of cucumber a day to get the benefits. It's quite doable really, if you have a little bit for lunch and then some in a side salad for dinner.
Pineapple portion size
Pineapple is another one which can be confusing when it comes to portion size. The whole fruit rule that applies to bananas and apples thankfully isn't the same here because munching your way through a whole pineapple would take quite some time.
The good news is that you can get a portion of fruit in just one large slice of pineapple so a whole fruit will go a long way to bumping up your family's daily five-a-day count.
Satsuma portion size
Perhaps the handiest fruit of all, two of these humble satsumas are a neatly packed up portion ready to go. Throw a couple of these mini oranges in your bag and enjoy them for a mid-morning snack to up your intake of fresh fruit, or have them in the evening as a sweet treat after tea as an alternative to a sugary dessert.
Spaghetti Hoops portion size
It may surprise you but everyone's favourite store cupboard staple actually counts towards your 5 a day. Thanks to that signature sauce you're actually getting a good old hit of tomato goodness in every 1/2 tin, so you can enjoy a quick and easy tea guilt-free. For added 5 a day factor why not stir through some spinach.
Sweetcorn portion size
Another tinned hero is the mighty sweetcorn. These little kernels of sunshine don't only taste delicious they help you to get those all important vitamins and minerals. Three tablespoons is the amount you'll need to serve up as a portion to tick another portion of fruit or veg off your list.
Tomatoes portion size
Tomatoes come in all shapes and seizes but as a rough guide a medium one counts as one portion of veg, while seven babies rack up a whole portion too. They can be enjoyed in so many recipes that there's no excuse not to include these little chaps in your diet - think soups, salads or pasta sauces.
Avocado portion size
There's no denying that avocado is the vegetable of the moment, but you don't need to eat tonnes of the stuff to get your five a day portion. Just half of this stone fruit counts, and it is so simple to prepare. Simply pop out its skin and enjoy in chunks through a salad or mashed onto toast.
Banana portion size
Another portable favourite, bananas are a great way to top up your portions of fruit. Just one counts and can easily be fitted in between breakfast and lunch to help get you out of that mid-morning slump with its lovely natural sugars.
Cauliflower portion size
Eight florets of cauliflower happen to count as your five a day, which we estimate as the perfect portion size for cauliflower cheese! Smother this lovely veg in a rich sauce and serve it up alongside your Sunday roast for a tasty side you don't have to feel guilty about.
Apples or Pears portion size
Some fruit are just easier to measure than others and two of the simplest versions come in the form of apples and pears. Just one of each of these classically British fruits will give your 5 a day a boost, and who doesn't enjoy an apple pie we ask? The perfect use!
Kiwi portion size
A tropical fruit like no other, the kiwi is a delicious way to keep on top of your 5 a day. Just two of these little bright green fruits will tot up to a portion and they're delicious sliced into yogurt or thrown on top of tarts.
Mango portion size
If you love mango you'll be pleased to know it takes just two slices of this delicious yellow fruit to get your five a day hit. We like it as it comes in chunky pieces to enjoy the flavour fully.
Beans portion size
If you always wondered about how best to benefit from beans then we can tell you. Just three heaped tablespoons count as a portion and are a great low-fat way to fill up. Tossed in a lovely light dressing they can be enjoyed as a salad or mixed through sauces you could make them part of a chilli, casserole or shepherd's pie.
Onion portion size
Rejoice onion lovers. These unlikely chaps do in fact count as a veggie. You'll need to get through one in a day which is easy enough when you think about all the ways you can use them - think chutneys, salads and of course sauces.
Celery portion size
Celery is one of those satisfyingly crunchy vegetables and you'll need to munch your way through just three small sticks to tick another veg off your daily list. We like ours dunked in hummus or sour cream and chive dip - delicious.
Cherries portion size
Make the most of cherries while they're in season to help give you an extra portion of fruit. Fourteen cherries is the number you'll need to get through, but we don't think it's much of a challenge when they're so delicious. Plus they're considered low calorie fruits too so they won't impact your calorie count much if you're dieting.
Plums portion size
Another seasonal British favourite is the delicious plum. These juicy stone fruits are sweetest in late summer and you'll need to eat just two to get one of your 5 a day portions.
Dried fruit portion size
Your 5 a day portions don't always have to come in the form of fresh fruit or veggies. Dried options are a great way to boost your intake and make a really easy snack throughout the day.
Grapefruit portion size
Grapefruit is a bit of a love or hate it fruit. However, if you're in the love camp then you'll be pleased to know you can make your way through half a one and tick it off your 5-a-day count. It's delicious as breakfast with a little honey on top to take the edge of the bitterness.
Peppers portion size
Crunchy peppers are a great veg to dunk into dips as a snack. You'll only need a handful of strips to make your way through a portion as half a pepper counts. AND with so many other delicious ways to use them you'll easily be able to tick this one off. Stuffed pepper, anyone?
Try this tasty roasted veg recipe...
Strawberries portion size
If ever there was a good excuse to eat a big bowl of strawberries and cream it's the news that a portion comes to seven of these lovely little fruits. Perfect for lunch boxes and delicious as desserts, we're sure you'll find many a way to enjoy these chaps.
More fruit and veg portion 5-a-day portion sizes 1 x orange, nectarine 2 x plums, satsumas, kiwi fruit 3 x apricots 5cm slice melon 4 x heaped tbsp cooked kale, spring greens, green beans 4 x heaped tbsp blueberries 1 x cup pomegranate seeds 3 x heaped tbsp carrots and peas 2 x heaped tbsp spinach 8 x Brussels sprouts
Surprising foods that count towards your 5 a day
It's not all about apples, carrots and bananas. There's actually other ways to get your portions and they're actually FUN ways! Amanda says the below all count...
- Chickpeas: (3 heaped tablespoons) - 'We tend to think of fruits and vegetables when we think about our five a day, but this pulse counts towards your daily intake. Add them to your salads or blend them up to make homemade hummus. You could even swap half of your rice portion to make a 50/50 rice and chickpea dish,' says Amanda.
- Guacamole: (made with ½ an avocado) - Amanda recommends spreading some on a slice of toast for a filing breakfast. Alternatively cut up some carrots and enjoy guac as a dip. For a bigger snack, try cutting up cucumber and celery too. Capsicums also taste great dunked in guacamole!
- Raisins: (1 heaped tablespoon) - These dried grapes are great added to your morning porridge. Or you could combine with mixed nuts for a healthy afternoon snack. They also taste great in salads to add a sweet edge!
- Tomato puree - (1½ tablespoon) - Yes, this counts! Amanda recommends adding puree to your pasta sauce or soups to get your portions up.
Surprising that don’t count towards your 5 a day
So, we know what does count towards our 5 a day, and how much of certain foods make up a portion, but you might be shocked to discover that a popular starchy vegetable doesn't actually count towards your 5 a day. Amanda explains that white potatoes, whilst healthy, aren't to be counted.
'Because white potatoes are classed as a starch, so they are actually a carbohydrate and do not count towards one of your five a day.'
So, although you don't need to swerve the classic white spud (they do taste great after all!), you could swap white potatoes for sweet potato.
Sweet potatoes are a sweeter alternative, which do count towards your 5 a day. Plus they're packed with vitamin A, an essential vitamin which helps boost immunity and keep eyesight healthy.
Amanda explains that you can make them into wedges, sweet potato mash or even bake a whole potato to increase your veggie and fibre intake without compromising on taste!
She adds: 'Plantain is another food that is classed as a starch so does not count towards your five a day. Swap for an unripe banana, which has the added health benefits of prebiotic fibres.'
How to increase your five a day
It doesn't need to be a chore, and it can actually be quite fun, increasing your portions of fruit and veg. Amanda recommends the following...
- Add a handful of spinach and mixed berries to your smoothies. Frozen banana is also great for making smoothies a little thicker and frothier!
- Stock the freezer up with frozen vegetables and add them to curries, stews and rice dishes
- Swap your potato mash for either sweet potato or cauliflower mash
- Serve your meals with a side salad and include lots of colour; carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, onions, spinach.
- Cut up fresh vegetables like celery, carrots, cucumber and eat them as a snack with some salas, guacamole or hummus
- Layer up your sandwiches with tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, peppers and spinach
- Add fresh fruit to your water
Check out this video on easy ways to eat more greens...
Amanda adds: 'Our recent research reveals that 39% of people have been preparing more meals from scratch since lockdown, which is great as it's much easier to increase your veg intake within your meals, often without the rest of your family realising, as you are able to bulk up popular dinner-time meals such as curry or cottage pie with extra vegetables.'
Freelance writer Lucy Gornall is the former health and fitness editor for various women’s magazines including Woman&Home Feel Good You. She has previously written for titles including Now, Look and Cosmopolitan, Woman, Woman's Own, Woman's Weekly and Chat. She lives and breathes all things fitness.
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