Fruit and Vegetables

Web Resource Last Updated: 06-08-2020

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The role of fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are a good source of fibre, and are packed with essential vitamins and minerals and a variety of other nutrients that are vital for health.

Studies have shown that eating a wide variety and aiming for a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables each day can help to reduce your risk of developing many health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity and certain cancers. An added bonus is that most fruit and vegetables are naturally low in calories and high in fibre, which will help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Although fruit contains natural sugar, having diabetes does not mean that you should stop eating it. If you are distributing your intake evenly across the day and having the recommended portion sizes, it is very unlikely that fruit will cause your blood glucose levels to increase.

How much should I eat?

Where possible aim for at least five 80 g portions of fruit and vegetables each day, with a daily total of 400 g.

Some types of fruit and vegetables only count as one portion in a day, no matter how much of them you eat or drink:

  • Fruit juice (as the juicing process removes most of the fibre from the fruit)
  • Beans and pulses, as although they are a good source of fibre, they contain fewer nutrients than other fruit and vegetables

What is a portion? 

  • 1 medium apple/orange/pear
  • 1 small banana
  • 10 grapes
  • 2 halves of tinned peaches
  • 7 strawberries/cherry tomatoes
  • 2 satsumas/plums/kiwis
  • 2 rings tinned pineapple
  • 5 cm/2 in slice of fresh pineapple/melon
  • 1 small box raisins
  • 1 cereal bowl of mixed salad
  • 1 bowl of vegetable soup
  • 3 broccoli florets
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of peas or sweetcorn

Fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables (canned in fruit juice or water and with no added sugar and salt) all count.

Tips for eating five portions a day 

Breakfast

  • Include a 150 ml glass of unsweetened fruit juice (only once a day) or slice fruit over your cereal.
  • Add grilled mushrooms or tomatoes to scrambled eggs.

Lunch

  • Have a bowl of vegetable soup (homemade or tinned).
  • Add extra salad to your sandwich.

Evening meal

  • Add some extra vegetables to a pizza: three or four tablespoons of sliced mushrooms, half a pepper, two pineapple rings.
  • Include a large side of mixed salad or two portions of vegetables.
  • Opt for fruit as a dessert with natural yoghurt.

Snack

  • Easy options include pears, apples, plums and satsumas.
  • With a little more preparation, you can have celery, cucumber and carrot sticks with low-fat hummus.

How can I keep the cost down?

  • Buy dried, frozen and canned fruit and vegetables, choosing supermarket own brands.
  • Buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season.
  • Avoid wastage by buying fresh fruit and vegetables in varying degrees of ripeness, so that some ripen earlier and some later.
  • Placing fruit in a bowl causes it to ripen more quickly.
  • Buy loose fruit and vegetables rather than pre-packaged so that you can just buy what you need.
  • Local markets are often cheaper than supermarkets.
  • Don’t throw away vegetables that are about to go out of date; use them in soups, stews or casseroles and then freeze.

Useful resources

The NHS has an Eat Well guide on what counts as one portion of fruit or vegetables here.

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