Because I wasn’t entirely convinced that either of my children are actually getting their five a day, I decided to research just what constitutes one portion of fruit and veg and try to do something to improve the situation because even though LM’s leaving home very soon and Lise already lives abroad, I can still have some kind of influence on them when they visit. Paul’s down at my mum’s at the moment but once he’s back, I intend to make sure he eats healthier too.
The following count towards your five a day:
One medium apple, orange or banana (and other medium sized fruits)
Half a large grapefruit
A full slice of melon
Two small citrus fruits such as tangerines, satsumas etc
One tablespoon of raisins
Three apricots or plums
Three tablespoons of cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas, sweetcorn, broccoli, green beans etc.
One average sized cereal bowl of mixed salad.
One cup of sprouting alfalfa, cress etc (that's a lot for the average person to manage)
Beans (kidney beans, butter beans, etc) and pulses (chickpeas, lentils, etc) are counted as one portion regardless of portion size or how many types you eat.
Potatoes DO NOT count towards your five a day.
Fruit or vegetable juice, smoothies etc count as one portion no matter how much you drink or how often during any 24 hour period.
Really shouldn't be eaten too often as the pastry contains a lot of fat and 'empty' carbs and the fruit's generally cooked in sugar but on the occasions when they are eaten, one slice counts as a portion.
Yoghurt and similar fruit based desserts aren't generally counted but can still be good for you depending on the sugar and fat content. Personally, if they contain a lot of fruit then I'd still say they're better than nothing at all so I usually count an average serving as a half portion.
What’s more, fruit and veg doesn’t have to be fresh to be counted. While I'm not advocating the use of convenience foods as an alternative to fresh fruit and veg, there are times when they're handy and most of us use them from time to time. It's good to know, therefore, that tinned and pre-packed frozen veg is counted towards our five a day too. Even baked beans are counted. You can read more about processed fruit and vegetables here.
But let’s say somebody eats a sandwich that includes some lettuce for lunch; it isn’t enough to count as one portion but surely that salad’s gotta count for something? I mean, it’s still better than no salad at all, isn’t it? I think so and generally count it as half a portion.
If you're uncertain about what constitutes a portion, Perfect Portions is worth looking at.
Some ways of ensuring that you get your five a day are:
- By choosing raw fruit or vegetables as snacks.
- By adding fruit to cereals, either dry or fresh.
- By having a side salad with sandwiches, pizzas and similar. Actually, it's worthwhile having a side salad with just about every meal (ok, so maybe not a stew!)
- By adding fruit to rice and custard desserts and plenty of veg to casseroles and stews.
- By serving fresh fruit instead of a traditional dessert.
I really don’t want to become obsessed by this so don’t intend to go into battle with my grown-up kids and other guests over whether or not they’re getting enough, but if I provide fruit and veg with their meals and have a supply of fruit - both fresh and dried - and salad on hand, at least they can get their five a day if they want them. I would like to see my younger daughter eat more 'good stuff' though.
And even though I don’t need my five-a-day and have to be careful how much raw veg I eat (for the sake of newcomers, I mention again that I’m an intravenous feeder with intestinal failure) I shall make sure I get them when the kids are around or I have guests in the house who aren’t particularly health conscious so that I can at least go forward as a good example.
Quick Recipe: Tropical Rice
1 slice pineapple
(or use any other tropical fruit combination that takes your fancy)
2 tablespoon raisins
1 teaspoon soy sauce
250g long-grain rice
Boil the rice according to the packet instructions using chicken stock instead of water. When ready, mix in the soy sauce then transfer to a serving dish and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, dice the fruit and add to cooled rice.
This goes really well alongside spicy foods such a Cajun chicken but works equally as well alongside a bacon chop on the barbecue during summer. Of course, the fruit won't be local but although I try to stick with locally grown fruit and veg as much as possible, I think it's ok to look further afield now and then.
PS: I tried eating tomato (more about that here). Richard chose some oval shaped organic vine tomatoes for me but I'm still not sure about them. I didn't mind the flesh too much but that globby stuff in the middle is awful. It tastes like sugared vinegar! I didn't give up though - I tried again before sticking them in last night's chilli. Still didn't like them much though. I'll keep trying - 2 tries down, 15 to go.
Other posts that may be of interest:
- A Bit About Lettuce
- Sweet Stella Cherries - A Real Taste of Summer
- BBQs - An Eco Friendly Way of Preparing Food?
- Garden Plants to Use in Salads