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Healthy eating tips - getting enough fruit and vegetables

Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can help you reduce your risk of cancer.Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. Fruit and vegetables are a great source of fibre and eating plenty of them may reduce the risk of cancer.

This page will tell you about what a portion is, what counts as a portion and why colours are important. It also contains five helpful tips for getting more fruit and vegetables into your diet. For more general healthy eating tips, have a look at our Healthy meal ideas section.

What is a portion?

A portion is about 80g of fruit or vegetables. This is roughly equal to:

A banana counts as one portion of fruit.

  • an apple, orange, banana, or similarly-sized fruit
  • two plums, nectarines or similarly-sized fruit
  • a handful or grapes or berries
  • a slice of melon, pineapple or large fruit
  • one tablespoon of raisins or other dried fruit
  • Two serving spoons of broccoli counts as a portion of vegetables.
  • two serving spoons of cooked vegetables, e.g. broccoli or carrots
  • a dessert bowl of salad
  • two serving spoons of beans and pulses (only one portion per day)
  • a 150ml glass of fresh fruit juice or smoothie (only one portion per day)

The Department of Health recommend that people eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Beans and pulses can only count towards one portion a day. This is because they are high in fibre but don’t contain the same balance of nutrients as other fruit and vegetables.

Fruit juice can also only count towards one portion a day. This is because it is high in nutrients but low in fibre. And extracting the juice releases sugars which are bad for your teeth.

The NHS 5-a-day website has a full list of portion sizes for different fruit and vegetables.

Potatoes do not count as part of your daily fruit and vegetable portions. Do all fruit and vegetables count?

Dried or tinned fruit, and tinned or frozen vegetables can all count towards your daily fruit and vegetable intake. But try to eat tinned fruit kept in natural fruit juice rather than syrup. And check the salt content of tinned foods, as it can sometimes be high.

The fruit and vegetables in ready meals or takeaways can also count. But these foods are often high in fat and added salt and sugar, so try to eat them in moderation.

Potatoes are nutritious but are classified as starchy foods, so for these purposes, don’t contribute to your vegetable intake. And chips certainly don’t count either!

Variety is the spice of life

Eat differently coloured fruit and vegetables to get a balanced range of nutrients. Different types of fruit and vegetables contain different combinations of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables will ensure that you get a good mix.

A good rule of thumb is to eat fruit and vegetables of different colours. Often the chemicals that are responsible for the colours are the same ones that are good for health.

A glass of juice is an easy way to get a fruit and vegetable portion. Five easy tips

  1. A glass of pure unsweetened fruit juice is a quick and easy portion, but try to have only one a day as they are still high in sugar and not so high in fibre.
  2. When you feel like a snack, go for fresh or dried fruit instead of crisps or chocolate. Or try vegetable sticks with a low-fat dip.
  3. Liven up the food you already eat with crunch or colour - put tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber in sandwiches, berries and bananas in yogurt and cereal, or vegetables in pasta, stir-fries and soups.
  4. Make fruit and vegetables fun for children. Cut them into funky shapes, make a smiley face with fruit pieces, and get the kids involved when you’re cooking.
  5. Keep your kitchen well stocked with fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables. Remember that going for those in season is cheaper when buying fresh.

More tips

Our Ten Top Tips page has more advice on reaching a healthy body weight through healthy eating and physical activity. Ten Top Tips is a programme for keeping or reaching a healthy weight through lifestyle changes that you can fit into your daily routine.

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Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team
Updated: 2 December 2010