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 this definitive guide adapted from the British Heart Foundation.
- The salad in your sandwich:
Although the 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. 80g is how much you need for it count as one portion of vegetables.
2. Onion rings:
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.
Still craving some onion rings with your burger? Try a tomato and onion salad instead.
3. Chips, mash or roast potatoes:
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 wedges with just a little oil.
It might be made from tomatoes, but ketchup doesn’t count towards our 5-a-day because of its high sugar and salt content. Enjoy ketchup in moderation, and try a reduced sugar and salt version.
5. Ready-made soups:
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 of vegetables can still be high in salt or saturated fat from seasonings and ingredients such as bacon, cream and cheese. Check the label to be sure.
6. Vegetable crisps:
Vegetable crisps made from beetroot, parsnips or carrot might sound healthier than ordinary potato crisps, and might sound 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.
7. Ready-made salads:
Vegetables in ready-made salads do count as a portion if there’s 80g of vegetables. But some ready-made salads may contain little in the way of vegetables, and often contain a lot of mayo, dressings and other ingredients 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 reduced-fat versions or make your own with a yoghurt-based dressing instead of mayo.
8. Pickled gherkins and onions:
They might be made from vegetables, but these don’t count because of their high salt content.
Due to their high salt content, whole olives won’t count towards your 5-a-day. The oil they are stored in is part of the healthy Mediterranean diet and is a good substitute for butter. Just don’t treat it as a vegetable.
10. Fruit yoghurts:
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.
11. Fruit-based puddings:
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 nutritional 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.
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.
Visit the British Heart Foundation website for more heart-healthy tips.