5-a-day: Surprising foods that count

When it comes to looking after our health - we all know how good fruit and veg is for us. But two in three of us are still struggling to eat the recommended five daily portions, and a study by Imperial College London has suggested that we should actually be aiming to double that to keep healthy and reduce the chance of heart attack, stroke, cancer and early death.

But fitting in those extra portions may not be as tricky as you think, and you may be getting more of your daily requirements than you realise. We spoke to Nicola Shubrook, a nutritionist from Urban Wellness, about what the surprising contributors to your five a day are.

1. Baked beans

Yep, pulses (lentils or beans) count towards your five-a-day, so your favourite comfort meal may be healthier than you think. Beans are good sources of protein and carbohydrate, as well as containing essential vitamins and minerals. "Half a tin is classed as one portion of your five a day, but it can also contain around 1g of salt and over 9g of sugar (especially Heinz)," says Nicola.

"Keep in mind that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults of salt is no more than 6g a day and for sugar it's 30g a day. Opt for the no added sugar versions, where you can to still get your five a day but without the extra sugar, and they tend to be lower in salt too!"

How much? 1 x 5-a-day serving = 80g

2. Guacamole

Avocados, guacamole's main ingredient, are all the rage right now and for good reason. They're naturally nutrient dense and are the only fruit that provides a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. If you like yours best served as guacamole, Nicola recommends that you make your own with just with some added tomato, chilli and garlic.

"The danger with shop bought guacamole is that they add extras, such as double cream and salt to add flavour or texture. Check the labels if buying shop-bought guacamole and look for one with no added extras, such as cream, salt or sugar."

How much? 1 x 5-a-day serving = approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons.

3. Tomato puree

Packed full of vitamins, flavonoids, potassium and the antioxidant lycopene, tomato puree is a great way to get one of your five a day, says Nicola. "It also works as an alternative to tomato ketchup if you're looking to cut down on your sugar. Just use a small amount on the side of your plate for that tomatoey flavour, like you would a ketchup."

How much? 1 x 5-a-day serving = approximately 1½ tablespoon.

4. Olives

A good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, olives do count towards one of your 5-a-day - but you'd have to eat a fair amount of them in order to for them to count, says Nicola.

"They're also high in salt, so snacking on a few is fine but just don't go overboard with them."

How much? 1 x 5-a-day serving = ½ cup.

5. Hummus

Chickpeas, which are the main ingredient in hummus, count as one of your five-a-day. High in protein and fibre, chickpeas also contain several key vitamins and minerals.

"However, they only count as one serving, along with other pulses, such as lentils or kidney beans, no matter how many or much of it you eat."

How much? 1 x 5-a-day serving = approximately 3 heaped tablespoons.

6. Spaghetti hoops

Technically, spaghetti hoops do count as one of your 5-a-day but this is down to the tomato sauce they're in, rather than the actual spaghetti itself, says Nicola.

"Just like baked beans, the sauce contains added sugar and so is not actually a good bet. You'd be better of making your own tomato sauce to have with spaghetti."

How much? 1 x 5-a-day serving = 200g (1/2 a 400g tin).

7. Fruit smoothies or fruit juice

"A 150ml serving of a fruit or vegetable smoothie or juice counts as a maximum of one portion, no matter how much you drink", says Nicola. "This equates to about ½ a bottle of pre-bought juice that you might buy with your lunch, so keep an eye on how much you drink in one sitting. Drinking more doesn't make it better for you!"

How much? 1 x 5-a-day serving = 150ml.

8. Onions

Most of us use onions whilst cooking to enhance flavour without a second thought, and we forget that they're a vegetable that count towards our five a day quota.

"Use them in your cooking regularly, along with other vegetables to ensure you get your daily quota," advises Nicola.

How much? 1 x 5-a-day serving = ½ medium onion.

9. Sweet potato wedges

Sweet potatoes do count, unlike their white cousin the potato - which are classed as a starch, making them a carbohydrate and not a vegetable.

"Sweet potatoes are a good source of the antioxidant beta-carotene and can be classed as your five-a-day because they're usually eaten in addition to the starch food part of the meal."

How much? 1 x 5-a-day serving = 1 small sweet potato.

As seen on NetDoctor.co.uk