The Diet Therapist


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from 5 to 10-a-day...

Should We all be aiming for

10 portions of fruit & veg a day?

Posted by The Diet Therapist, 11th February 2017

“Where did ‘5-a-day’ even come from?

In 1989/90, a World Health Organisation expert committee suggested in a public review that eating 400g+ of fruit and veg each day (a minimum of 400g) may help prevent nutrition-related diseases, (this was after the global increase in cardiovascular disease prevalence in the ‘80s).


America adopted the “5-a-day for Better Health” program in 1991. Developed by the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, this is now known by a different campaign name/logo - “Fruit & Veggies – More Matters.” The UK and many other countries created their own recommendations and campaigns for promoting a higher intake of fruits and vegetables, and there are differences between these…


Australia, for example recommends “5 + 2” – which is 5 servings of veg and 2 of fruit.

Japan recommends 5 servings of fruit and veg, but suggests 350g of vegetables (4.3 UK servings but 5 Japanese size servings of 70g) and 200g fruit (which is 2.5 UK servings and 2 Japanese servings of 100g). 


So there are also differences internationally in how “one serving” is defined, and over the appropriate ratio of veg to fruit (or whether this matters). 


A couple of weeks ago there was a lot of media coverage that picked up on a study from the International Journal of Epidemiology which was led by Dr Dagfinn Aune from the School of Public Health at Imperial.  The research team conducted a review and meta-analysis of lots of different population-wide epidemiological studies (95 studies encompassing up to 2 million people), investigating the quantity of fruit and vegetables that would provide the maximum protection against disease and premature death.


The authors suggested that although 5 portions of fruit and veg are “good” – ten a day (800g) may provide greater protection against a range of conditions and is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer and all cause mortality. The risk was reduced for each 200g/day increment of fruit and vegetables consumed; this is 2 ½ portions.  Which means that even 2-3 portions a day still has health benefits!

Is this realistic though?

A lot of the media coverage and social media conversations centred around the fact that this was totally unrealistic for the majority of the population…and given that most people struggle to manage 3 portions a day (fewer than 1 in 3 adults in the UK are thought to get 5-a-day, which equates to 400g), this is probably true.


However, when you think carefully about increasing your intake, it’s often easier than it may seem. Here are some examples:


Day 1

Breakfast:  spelt toast with peanut butter and sliced banana (1 small banana)

Snack: handful of almonds with 1 apple

Lunch:  spinach, (1 tuppaware bowl) tomato, (1 chopped) celery (1 stick) and mixed bean salad (3 heaped tablespoons), with seeds and olive oil vinaigrette.

Snack:  carrot (1 small sliced) & cucumber (2 inch sliced) sticks with hummus

Dinner – 3 people:  Chicken tomato curry (with min. 3 Tablespoons tomato puree, 1 bag kale & 1.5 courgettes) with brown rice.


Day 2:

Breakfast:  ½ cup oats, yoghurt, 1 tablespoon chopped hazelnuts, frozen raspberries (7), and blackberries (9)

Snack: Nak’d “Pecan Pie” bar (counts as one serving!)

Lunch:  Wholegrain wrap with ½ avocado, shredded chicken, half a red pepper sliced, & sour cream. A handful of mange tout

Snack: 1 x orange and a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds

Dinner: Baked salmon with steamed broccoli (2 spears), spinach (4 tablespoons cooked) and sweet potato (1) mash.


What Counts?


To see the different serving sizes recommended by the NHS, click here >


All fresh, and cooked fruit and veg count (aside from potatoes) – but portion sizes differ.

Dried, tinned and frozen fruit & veg count (but again, portion sizes differ)

Beans and Pulses – yes, these count! Although, no matter how many servings you have, they only count as 1 portion of your 5-a-day.

Smoothies & Juices – but these again, only count as 1 of your 5 a day, despite portion sizes and can be high in sugar.  The recommended advice is to limit to a total serving of 150g a day (1 portion).