Good Habits: Five-a-day

by Ali on January 5, 2009

Whether you’ve resolved to eat more healthily in 2009, to finally lose those extra pounds, or to improve your mood and energy levels, getting five or more portions of fruit or veg per day will really help you towards your goal.

To make it easy to read, I’ve split this post into three sections: the first explains why fruit and veggies are so good for you, the second explains what a “portion” counts as, and the third gives you some practical tips and guidance on meeting that five-a-day target every single day.

Why are fruit and vegetables important?

Most governments and health authorities recommend a minimum target of five portions of fruit and vegetables per day (and some countries suggest seven or even nine!) Fruit and vegetables are an important food group because they typically contain:

  • A wide range of vitamins, which you need to stay healthy
  • Minerals, which are essential for keeping your body running smoothly
  • Fibre, to help with digestion and to keep you full for longer (very useful for dieters!)

Most fruits and veggies are also very low in fat and contain a lot of water – meaning they have a low calorie-density. For example, a 100g apple contains 50 calories. A 100g chocolate bar contains eleven times as many – about 550!

What counts as a “portion” of fruit or vegetables?

All fruits and vegetables except for potatoes (considered a starch) count towards your five-a-day target: fresh, frozen, or tinned. One portion is 80g. That’s:

  • One small apple
  • Two clementines or satsumas
  • Half a tin (drained) of canned fruit
  • About seven strawberries
  • Three tablespoons of peas

Fruit juice counts towards your “five a day” target, but you can only count one glass of juice per day. This is because most of the fibre is stripped from fruit and veggies during the juicing process.

Dried fruit also counts, but you only need one tablespoon for one portion (as the water has been removed so the fruit is much more concentrated). Dried fruits are high in fibre, but it’s better to eat fresh whole fruits if you’re trying to lose weight, as the water will help fill you up.

You can find some handy lists of fruit and vegetable portions here.

How can I reach my five a day target?

If you don’t usually eat five portions of fruit and veggies, here’s how to make it easy to hit that target every day:

Breakfast:

  • Add dried fruit or sliced banana or berries to your cereal.
  • Make a big bowl of fruit salad to keep in the fridge for an easy no-preparation breakfast.
  • Have a glass of fresh fruit juice at breakfast time.

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Lunch:

  • Have a side salad with your usual sandwich, or choose a pasta salad with lots of veggies instead.
  • Fill up on­­ a mixed bean salad (pulses count towards your five-a-day).
  • Have a bowl of vegetable soup – lovely and warming in winter.

Dinner:

  • Try a tomato-based pasta dish, or a vegetable curry – you may be able to pack all five-a-day into one meal!
  • If you want a starter, have melon, salad or a small bowl of soup.
  • Cook twice as many vegetables as usual – fill half your plate with them.

Snacks:

  • Keep a couple of pieces of fresh fruit on your desk at work, to snack on during the day.
  • Try crudities – raw vegetable sticks – celery, carrot and peppers (capsicums) work well. Dip them into salsa or guacamole for extra veggie goodness.

If you want to know more about eating healthily and losing weight, grab a copy of my Dieting Basics ebook. I’ve cut the price to just $4 this January to help out determined dieters during these credit-crunch times, and it gives you all the facts on which vitamins and minerals you need, and which fruit and veggies you’ll find them in … along with much, much more! Find out about the Dieting Basics ebook here and download your free sample here.

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