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Articles - A Healthy Diet:

We are supposed to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, as recommended by
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Eat fruit and vegetables in a lot of different colours and enjoy them. Getting people to do this is the mission of the 5-a-day association. The message of the “5-a-day” campaign is that eating 5 portions of fruit and/or vegetables every day will improve your health.

The association launched its campaign in May 2000. The message is simple and powerful; it builds on research that shows that people who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of dying of heart and circulatory problems, strokes, various types of cancer, high blood pressure, adiposity (obesity) and type 2 diabetes.

In Germany, the Federal Ministry for Nutrition, Agriculture and Consumer Protection has joined with the Federal Ministry of Health as patrons of the campaign. Major associations like the German Cancer Society, the German Nutrition Society, the aid infodienst and many medical aid societies have added their weight to get the message out. In the UK, it’s the Ministry of Health with the support of the NHS and charities like Cancer Research UK. And the campaign enjoys the enthusiastic support of a large number of food producers, vegetable and fruit growers. The goal is to get people eating more fruit and vegetables, which it is hoped will bring about long-term improvements in the nation’s health. Since 2002, the 5-a-day campaign has been promoted by and received funding from the European Union.

This close cooperation with the food industry and food retailers as well as with restaurateurs and catering organisations is expected to make sure that people think “5-a-day” at the point where they make purchase decisions. The campaign also involves a range of activities focussed on schools, workplaces and shopping.

5 a day made easy – A portion is a handful

Five portions of fruit and vegetables spread over a day – what’s not to like? Nutritional advice doesn’t come less complicated than this and it couldn’t be easier to integrate in a family meal plan.

People will be encouraged to eat  around 650 grams of fruit and vegetables a day, ideally in the form of three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit. You’re encouraged to use your hands for measuring – a portion is what fits into one hand. Think of an apple, a tomato, a red pepper. When it comes to berries and chopped vegetables, such as raspberries, broccoli or lettuce leaves, then a portion is what fits into your two cupped hands. For nuts and dried fruit ½ handful is a portion. Children have smaller hands, so their portions can be smaller.

Fresh fruit and vegetables have the highest content of healthy substances, but if you can’t get hold of fresh products, it’s better to use frozen and even, but only occasionally, canned products rather than miss your 5-a-day goal. A portion of frozen vegetables is what you can hold in two cupped hands. If you’re using canned products, check the drained weight and reckon 120 g for a portion. With dried pulses like lentils, 50 g makes a portion – that’s about a handful. Now and again you could replace one of your five portions with a glass of fruit or vegetable juice.

A “5-a-day” day could look like this:

Breakfast: muesli with an apple or a glass of fruit juice
Mid-morning snack: a couple of carrots or small tomatoes
Lunch: a salad as a starter and a portion of vegetables with your main meal
Supper: a small bowl of salad or a wholegrain roll with radishes or tomatoes as part of the filling

“5 a day” is international


Worldwide campaign

“Five a day” in the UK, “Cinco al dia” in Spain , “5 am Tag” in Germany – the slogan is crossing borders. In Denmark they’re going one better with “6 om dagen” and in France people are told the 6 a day is the minimum, but “10 par jour” is the goal.

The forerunner of the European campaigns was the influential “5 a day – for better health” campaign run by the National Cancer Institute in the USA and Canada, which started over ten years ago and has gone from strength to strength ever since. It can now count on the support of over 1000 cooperation partners. In Europe too, the “5 a day” mantra is enjoying growing recognition. There are national campaigns running in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Since September 2005, there’s been an international umbrella organisation, the International Fruit and Vegetable Alliance (IFAVA). This organisation has set itself the goal of boosting consumption of fruit and vegetables worldwide. Countries not yet in the club will be encouraged to launch their own 5-a-day campaigns in the hope that they will profit from the experience of others.


Author: Dr. Maike Groeneveld