Tag Archives: 5 A DAY

Pizza as one of your five a day

Pizza as one of your 5 A DAY? We look beyond the headlines

If we believe recent, excited headlines that scream ‘pizza could count as one of your five a day’, then it seems we could all be racking up our fruit and vegetable portions by way of Italy’s finest export.

But before dashing to the takeaway, let’s look behind the headlines of a story that seems too good to be true.

The 5 A DAY menu

To date the 5 A DAY logo, which was launched by the Department of Health in 2003, was restricted for use on plain fruits and vegetables, and fruit and vegetable products with no added salt, sugar or fat (for example, some smoothies).

But recently, Public Health England (PHE) discussed whether it would be possible to add ‘composite foods’ – anything with more than one ingredient – to the 5 A DAY menu.

Eighty grams of fruit or vegetables contributes one portion towards 5 A DAY. PHE tested whether the equivalent 80g fruit and vegetable content of a ready meal – such as a pizza – could count in the same way.

Composite foods were tested for 5 A DAY
Composite foods were tested for 5 A DAY

Public Health England found that a significant proportion of these composite foods could count towards your 5 A DAY. However, they also found that many of these foods also contained high amounts of fats, sugar and salt.

In all 339 food products were assessed:

  • 134 (40%) contained one portion of fruit and veg per serving
  • 94 (28%) contained at least a portion of fruit and veg and low to medium amounts of total fat, saturated fat, total sugars and salt (ie met Department of Health Front of Pack Guidance for green and amber) The majority also met Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD) salt targets.
  • Seven (2%) contained at least one portion of fruits and vegetables and were low in total fat, saturated fat, total sugars and salt (all in the Department of Health’s ‘green’ category) All seven also met PHRD salt targets.

So, while the majority of the food tested could count towards your 5 A DAY, only up to 30% of them were at least amber in terms of the DoH’s Front of Pack Guidance. And just 2% were all green in terms of labelling.

Check the labels

It might be tempting to think of a fruit pie or quiche as a way to achieve our 5 A DAY, but we also have to face the nutritional facts. Their additional salt, sugar and fat content could have an unhealthy impact on us, and may outweigh the benefits of the fruits and vegetables.

If you do purchase ready meals, be sure to check the labelling.

Check the labels for nutritional content
Check the labels for nutritional content

The more reds on a front-of-pack label, the less healthy the food is likely to be. Most foods with more than one or two reds should only be eaten occasionally. There are some exceptions that you can include in a healthy balanced diet. For example, cheeses are a good source of calcium and protein, and nuts contain healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. So you don’t need to cut out these foods altogether, just try to eat them less frequently or only in small amounts.

If a food has all or mostly greens, it’s likely to be a healthier choice and you can eat it often or in larger amounts. Amber means a food is neither high nor low in a nutrient, so you can eat foods with all or mostly ambers quite often.

For more information on making sense of food labelling, read our World Cancer Research Fund’s booklet.

How fruit and vegetables can help reduce your cancer risk

Eating fruits and vegetables, as part of a healthy, balanced, diet, can help reduce your risk of some cancers. For example, if everyone in the UK ate enough fruit, vegetables, and fibre, it is estimated that 1,500 cases of stomach cancer could be prevented.

Salty foods probably increase your risk of stomach cancer. Sugary, fatty foods can lead to weight gain, and being obese or overweight is linked to an increased risk of nine cancers, including breast and bowel cancer.

To help reduce your risk of cancer, put plant foods first – base your diet around wholegrains, pulses, vegetables and fruit. They contain nutrients such as vitamins and fibre and can help you maintain a healthy weight. And aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

For more information on 5 A DAY, or to see our what a portion of fruits and vegetables looks like, download our booklet, Eat Well For Life.


Easy cheats to improve your diet

Think eating more vegetables and fruits is a chore? It really doesn’t have to be – it’s easier than you think to give your diet a boost.

Plant foods are packed full of vitamins and minerals that help strengthen your immune system. Easing more into your diet and ditching the less healthy options can help you stay in shape and reduce your risk of cancer as well as other diseases, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

These easy swaps and additions take mere seconds to include in your food, and could help improve your diet in the blink of an eye:

Breakfast boost


Add a big handful of berries to your wholegrain cereal or porridge.  Not only will they taste great, but berries are also low in calories and a good source of fibre and vitamin C.

Splash skimmed or semi-skimmed milk instead of full fat on top to upgrade your breakfast.



Berry blast

Try a handful of berries, chopped peach or melon with a few spoonfuls of low-fat natural yoghurt. Add some torn mint leaves for an extra twist.

Wrap it up

Next time you pick a wrap for lunch, swap the meat for a bean-based filling, as beans are a fantastic source of protein and fibre, and count towards your 5 A DAY (although they only count for one portion, no matter how many you eat). If you want the extra health boost, chop up some tomatoes and adding them to the wrap to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.

Take a dip

Hummus dip

Instead of reaching for a bag of crisps, choose a variety of rainbow-coloured vegetables to plunge into a low-fat dip. Houmous is made from chickpeas, which contain vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well as protein, but can be high in calories so opt for a reduced-fat version. Or try making your own with our delicious and easy roasted red pepper houmous recipe.

Squeeze in leaves

Shop-bought sandwiches are the ultimate convenience, but their veg content is usually limited to one limp lettuce leaf or a sad slice of soggy tomato. Pep them up by adding in salad leaves, or grating a carrot or raw beetroot over the filling.

Soup it up

An easy way to add extra goodness to shop-bought soups is to stir in two big handfuls of spinach as it heats up. By wilting spinach into soup will give you a helping of vitamins, iron and fibre.


Next time you boil potatoes for mash, add a large handful of chopped carrot five minutes before the potatoes are cooked. Mash them all together and you’ll have snuck in some extra vitamin A and fibre. It works just as well with diced swede and parsnip, although they may need adding a little earlier.

Cheat with cherries

If you can’t face the idea of skipping on a pudding then zap a little dark chocolate in the microwave and dip a bowl of cherries or strawberries in the melted chocolate. Pop them onto some baking paper and into the fridge and, by the time you’ve finished your dinner, you’ll have a not too naughty dessert with the added bonus of vitamin C and fibre.

Fibre fuels lower cancer risk

Fibre - how much is enough?
Fibre - how much is enough?

We are often told that eating a diet high in fibre will help to keep our digestive system healthy and protect us from some illnesses, including cancer. But how much is enough and how can we add more to our diet?

Studies have found that eating foods that contain fibre can lower our risk of bowel cancer, the third most common cancer in the UK. Fibre-rich foods also help to control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, which can help you to maintain a healthy heart.

Fibre is an important part of our diet and is found in a variety of plant foods. It is best to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals (such as wholegrain bread and brown rice). Pulses (such as beans and lentils) are also fibre-rich and can count as one portion per day towards your 5 A DAY.

For optimal cancer and disease prevention, adults should aim to eat 18 grams of fibre a day. However, most people in Britain don’t reach this target; diet surveys indicate that eight out of 10 of us are not getting enough fibre, which is only found in plant foods. One of the best ways to increase your fibre intake is to eat your 5 A DAY portions of fruits and vegetables.

Fibre content of common foods

Apple – 2g fibre

Baked potato (with skin) – 4.9g fibre

Broccoli – 2g fibre per portion

Red lentils – 3g fibre per portion

Wholewheat bread – 1.8g fibre per slice

Wholewheat pasta – 6.3g fibre per portion

7 ways to eat more fibre

1. Add chopped fresh or dried fruit to your breakfast cereal.

2. Try porridge with low-fat milk and fruit for an alternative breakfast.

3. Replace white pasta and rice with wholegrain varieties and switch white bread for multi-seeded wholegrain bread.

4. Keep the skin on fruit and vegetables whenever possible.

5. Pack your sandwiches with salad and vegetables.

6. Include more pulses, such as beans and lentils, in your diet – you could add them to stews, soups, casseroles and pasta sauces.

7. Liven up the variety of cereals you cook with. Why not try cous cous, bulgar wheat or pearl barley next time you are cooking?

Interesting recipes to help increase your daily fibre intake can be found in the recipe section of our website or in our range of healthy cookbooks.

5 A DAY on a budget

5 A DAY on a budget
Can you get 5 A DAY on a budget?

Following reports about the high cost of fruits and vegetables, we have issued a press release about getting your 5 A DAY on a budget.

The story, which has been covered by the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail, is about how it is possible to get 5 A DAY for as little as 42p, which means it is possible even for those on a tight budget.

I have done interviews about the story on a few regional BBC radio stations, and those of you who listen to Radio Five Live would have heard me talking about the story as part of the 7am news bulletin.

We are not suggesting it will be possible to eat 5 A DAY for 42p every day, but we do hope this press release highlights the fact that by shopping wisely, fruit and vegetables do not have to be expensive.

So hopefully today’s coverage will help us get the message across that even with rising food prices, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is not out of reach.

Research shows that fruit and vegetables probably reduce risk of a number of types of cancer, including stomach cancer and oesophageal cancer.

And as well as any direct effect on cancer risk, people who eat plenty of fruit and vegetables are less likely to be overweight. Scientists now say that, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention.

5 A DAY of fruits and vegetables


5 A DAY healthy recipes
Healthy recipes


There is now strong evidence that as well as all the other health benefits of fruits and vegetables, having at least five portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables a day is important for cancer prevention.

But while most people know that eating fruits and vegetables is good for them, it is difficult to know how many portions of fruits and vegetables you are getting unless you know what a portion looks like.

This is why our latest publication, the 5 A DAY Cookbook, includes a double-page spread on how much makes up a portion of fruits and vegetables.

You can download it from the publications section of our website and it might be useful to cut out this spread and stick it on your kitchen notice board as a reminder.

It’s also worth remembering that a good rule of thumb is that a portion tends to be about a handful. And yes, the pun was intended.

I’ve known this for some time and I’ve found it useful over the years. But one thing I didn’t know – at least until I read the 5 A DAY cookbook – was what a portion size looks like for a child.

Children are smaller than adults, which means their portions of fruits and vegetables are smaller as well. And children also vary a lot in size, depending on how old they are.

But because the rule about a portion of fruits and vegetables being roughly a handful also applies to children, you’ll be able to work out how big their portions should be, no matter what their age.