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A Parent’s Guide to… eating 5 a day

How many servings of fruits & vegetables should our kids be eating every day?

I’m sure anyone you ask will know the answer! But how many of us are actually achieving this number? Well only 8% of children between 11-18 are actually meeting our 5-a-day requirement*. If this isn’t shocking, then I don’t know what is!

* NDNS: time trend and income analyses for Years 1 to 9. Public Health England

Why 5 a day?

Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that we can’t get from other foods. They’re a great source of fibre (also something we’re not great at getting here in the UK – but check out this post for tips on how to increase your fibre intake). A diet filled with fruit and vegetable contributes to an overall healthy diet and help reduce risk of a number of diseases and to ensure that children have all the micronutrients to help them nourish and grow.

What is a serving?

Technically a serving is 80g for everyone, but for some younger children this might be a little much so aiming for at least a palm sized amount. For dried fruit, it’s actually 30g or about 2 tablespoons.

Some examples of a serving are:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins
  • 2-3 tablespoons of cooked vegetables
  • 5-7 cherry tomatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons of baked beans/haricot beans/kidney beans/cannellini beans/butter beans/chickpeas

Read on for top tips for making sure your child is eating their 5-a-day…

Cooking board with varied foods on it
Add a piece of fruit or veg to every meal

If you’re having 3 meals a day, you’re already more than half way there! Maybe adding a piece of fruit to your breakfast, or some salad with your lunch. Add some cooked vegetables with your dinner as well. By including fruits and vegetables at every meal, it sets you up for success.

A glass of orange juice
Fruit juice counts! (150mls)

150mL of fruit juice or smoothies can actually count towards 1 of your 5 a day!  So adding a bit of orange juice to your breakfast is a really easy way to add that extra serving in!

But be careful – juice is high in sugar so stick to the recommended 150ml serving. And drinking 2 servings of juice does NOT count as 2 of your 5 a day!

Fresh, frozen or tinned

Whether you choose fresh, frozen, or tinned, you’re getting the same nutritional benefits. Adding frozen vegetables to a meal is a great way to get in a bit of extra veg, with no worries of it going off and even saving a bit of money. Choosing tinned fruit (in juice NOT syrup!) can be a great just to have in the house and easily added to things like porridge, yoghurt, or fruit salads.

Child eating some blueberries
What about snacks?

Can you swap the after school snack to a piece of fruit or some veggies with hummus? Using this time after school when children are hungry to make a healthy swap is a great idea, adds an extra serving, and keeps them going until dinner.

A picture of homemade pasta and tomato sauce
Disguise in meals

I’m sure this is a trick most parents already do if they’ve got a fussy eater – hiding some chopped up vegetables into a pasta sauce, soup, stews, or curries. It’s an easy way to make sure your children are still getting the vitamins and nutrients they need without the conflict that comes with introducing an unfamiliar or disliked food. This definitely isn’t the ideal way to have your child eating fruits and vegetables, but still helps with exposure to flavours, textures and nutrients.

Two little sisters shopping in a food store
Let them choose their own

Getting kids involved helps children take ownership over what they get to eat. When going to the supermarket, let your child choose a fruit or vegetable they’ve never tried. It could be a fresh, frozen or tinned fruit as well! Giving them a sense of independence and control makes them feel excited and eager.

A range of small pizza with silly expressions drawn in veggies
Make it fun!

As well as allowing your child to choose a fruit or vegetable, making it fun in the kitchen also helps. Get them involved with the cooking process, can you make fun shapes with the food? The more they’re exposed the more likely they are to eat it which makes getting 5 a day – much easier!