When you’re choosing ready-made foods, it’s not always easy to know what counts as your 5-a-day. Some of the claims made by manufacturers have more to do with selling the product than how healthy the product actually is. Get armed with the facts with our definitive guide.
1. The “salad” in your sandwich
Although sliced cucumber, tomato or lettuce in a sandwich can contribute towards your 5-a-day, it’s unlikely that there will be 80g of vegetables in your salad, which is how much you need for it to count as one portion of vegetables.
Looking for a sandwich that does count towards your 5-a-day? Try our cheese, pepper and basil open sandwich.
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2. Onion rings
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Onions? Great. But by the time they’re battered (probably with added salt) and deep fried, there’s no point kidding yourself that this is a healthy snack. And if you eat them with mayo, the fat content of the dish goes up even more.
Steven Depolo / Via Flickr.com
It might be made from tomatoes, but ketchup doesn’t count towards our 5-a-day because of its sugar and salt content. Enjoy ketchup in moderation, and try a reduced-sugar-and-salt version – but don’t imagine it’s a substitute for broccoli.
See our list of surprisingly salty foods.
4. Chips, mash or roast potatoes
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You didn’t really think that chips could count towards your 5-a-day, did you? Nor do any other potato dishes, though sweet potato does count. Try sweet potatoes in mash (you don’t need to add any butter), baked whole, or baked in wedges brushed with just a little oil.
5. Ready-made soups
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Tinned and fresh ready-made soups might contain enough vegetables to count towards your 5-a-day, but it can be hard to know how much they really contain. Be aware that even those which make claims on the pack about containing one or more portions can still be high in salt or saturated fat from seasonings and ingredients, like bacon, cream and cheese, so check the label. Or make your own vegetable-packed soup.
6. Vegetable crisps
Vegetable crisps made from beetroot, parsnip, carrot and the like might sound healthier than the ordinary potato kind, and might taste more interesting. But they are no better for you and will be too high in fat and salt to count towards your 5-a-day.
Find out how to make your own healthy vegetable crisps plus more ways to get your 5-a-day.
7. Ready-made salads
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Vegetables in ready-made salad still count as a portion if there’s 80g of vegetables. But some ready-made salads contain little in the way of vegetables, and a lot of mayo, dressings or other ingredients (like bacon) that are high in fat and salt. So it’s always worth checking the labels to choose the healthier versions. If you’re going to choose coleslaw, go for a reduced-fat version or make your own with a yoghurt-based dressing instead of mayo.
Get our recipe for fruit and nut coleslaw.
8. Pickled gherkins and pickled onions
Dom Dada / Via Flickr.com
Due to their high salt content, whole olives won’t count towards your 5-a-day. The oil they contain is part of the healthy Mediterranean diet, though, and is a good substitute for butter. Just don’t treat it as a vegetable.
10. Fruit yoghurts
Takeaway / Via en.wikipedia.org
It’s unlikely that there will be enough fruit in a ready-made fruit yoghurt to count as a portion (80g). What’s more, most fruit yoghurts are high in sugar, and sometimes fat too. Enjoy a healthier snack by topping some low fat natural yoghurt with fresh berries or your favourite fruit.
Packets of frozen mixed berries can be cheaper and more convenient. You can defrost a portion in the microwave and while the texture may be a little softer than fresh, you probably won’t notice when mixed with the yoghurt.
- See our infographic showing how much sugar is in different foods.
- Watch our animation to find out what are free sugars?
11. Fruit-based puddings
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These might contribute towards our 5-a-day, but may not contain enough fruit to make up a full portion (80g of fruit) and can also be high in added sugar and fat. If you buy a fruit-based pudding, check the nutrition information on the food labels.
The best way to ensure that you are in control on how much fruit, fat and sugar is in your pudding is to prepare it yourself.
- Visit our recipe finder for healthier fruity puddings, like baked spiced peach with raspberries or apple and blackberry crumble.
Although it’s made from grape juice, we hope it goes without saying that wine doesn’t count as one of our 5-a-day, due to its alcohol content.