5 a day: what counts?

Posted by for Nutrition

Eating fruit and veg is essential to maintaining a healthy diet, so we found out from the experts if there’s a perfect way to get your five a day in.

If you want to live a healthier life you should be eating five portions of fruit and vegetables every single day – it might not seem like breaking news, but a study by Harvard Medical School strongly suggests that simply following the five-a-day rule when it comes to maintaining a balanced diet is enough to do the trick.

Yet, despite the catchy phrase, eating five portions of fruit and vegetables daily isn’t always easy. Especially when faced with the allure of comfort food – which we’ve all been leaning on during the pandemic.

When you’re on the go, there’s no time to look up whether or not a handful of grapes makes up a portion of fruit, or if you need to add sweet potato fries to your roast potatoes to rack up the variety of vegetables on your plate.

We spoke to experts to find out what rules we should be following to meet the perfect quota for five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

What counts as your five a day?

According to Dr. Galyna Selezneva, “the number ‘five’ comes from an average calculation of what would approximately represent 400g of fruit and vegetables.” Rather than focusing on the perfect split of five items of produce, she recommends you eat mindfully and focus on variety, because “different fruit and vegetables contain different combinations of fibre, minerals and other vital nutrients,” which all contribute to a healthy macronutrient profile.

However, nutritionist at Exante, Sophie Elwood suggests “it’s best to have a bit more veg, than fruit.” According to Sophie, you should ideally be eating, “two to three portions of fruit, and then three plus portions of vegetables per day.”

As for portion sizes, the nutritionist specifies, “for fresh fruit, it’s around a handful: two plums, seven strawberries, a medium apple, a medium banana, and so on. For vegetables, it’s a generous handful of leafy greens, two sprigs of broccoli, three heaped tablespoons of baked beans.”

Do drinks count as your five a day?

Living on-the-go makes juices and smoothies a convenient alternative to sit-down meals, so it’s just as well that drinks do count towards your five a day. Although Sophie says, “150ml of fruit juice counts as a portion of fruit”, the nutritionist also advises to be mindful of swapping out drinks for actual produce, explaining, “there isn’t much fibre [in juice] and it’s very quickly digested, so it can cause very short-term spike in blood sugar,” leaving you hungry soon afterwards.  

Do potatoes count as your 5 a day?

Although delicious and full of filling carbohydrates, food such as white potatoes and yams “will not count towards one of your five a day” says Sophie Elwood. Instead, the vegatable portion of your five a day should be loaded with more fibrous alternatives, Dr. Galyna suggests eating “leafy greens as they are good sores of magnesium for muscle buildup, Broccoli, sweet potato and pulses.”

What Should Your Five-A-Day Look Like if You’re Trying to Get Stronger?

If you’re working out to get stronger and increase muscle mass, you need to feed your body accordingly.

Sophie Elwood says alongside your usual protein sources, “opt for vegetables with a little extra protein, such as beans, pulses and nuts. Since carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy and aids recovery, it’s worth including foods such as bananas, sweetcorn and butternut squash in our diet.”

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts. 

Image: Unsplash

Sign up for workouts, nutritious recipes and expert tips. You'll also get a free Beginner's Guide To Strength Training.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Share this article

Recommended by Florie Mwanza