Five a day: Can you cheat?

The food industry has dreamed up hundreds of ways to hit your daily fruit and veg target. But do they do they deliver what they say on the wrapper? Dan Lloyd asks the experts

In 2003 the Government began to encourage us to eat five portions of fruit or vegetables a day to help boost our intake of vitamins and minerals. Now companies are selling foods that claim to count towards your five-a-day, even if they don't look like they do. But are they really good for us? We grabbed 10 readily available items and asked two nutritionists how healthy they really are.

Our experts

Charlotte Watts is a nutritional therapist and co-presented BBC 3's Freaky Eaters. She's a partner with the health and weight loss specialists, Positively Slim

Marisa Peer is a leading voice on nutrition. Her new book, Ultimate Confidence, published by Sphere, is out now at £10.99


Warburtons fruit loaf with orange, £1.09

Claim: two slices = one of your five-a-day.

We say: stodgy, like a cake and very sweet

The experts say:

CW: "A sugary, highly processed product that tastes like confectionery, and the two slices equals one portion claim is a bit dodgy. I have an issue with that."

MP: "I don't see the point. Why buy bread – full of flour, sugar and starchy carbohydrates – when you could just eat an orange? It's silly."

Score: - 2/10

Alpen high fruit cereal, £2.80

Claim: one serving = one of your five-a-day.

We say: Plenty of dried fruit and oats – tasty with varied textures.

The experts say:

CW: "At least it's got rolled oats, so it's a low glycemic index product. But it's mostly sultanas and raisins, which are very sweet."

MP: "Dried fruit hasn't got the same vitamins as fresh fruit, and God knows how old it is. This is much better than cereals like Coco Pops but I'm not convinced this is one of your five-a-day.'

Score: 4.5/10

Princes fruit cocktail in juice, 67p

Claim: Half a tin = one of your five-a-day.

We say: A refreshingvariety of chunky peach, pear, and pineapple pieces, with grapes and cherries in a sweet juice.

The experts say:

CW: "The juice is made from concentrate, so it's high in sugar. I'm sure this satisfies the one-a-day claim, but it has lost a lot of nutrients from being in a tin."

MP: "If you haven't got fresh fruit this is the next best thing. It looks and tastes like fruit. Overall I think this is an excellent product."

Score: 5.5/10

Main meal

Sprout three-bean tostada, £2.99 at Waitrose

Claim: one meal = two of your five-a-day.

We say: Flour tortillas layered with beans in a tomato sauce covered in cheese with subtle seasoning, lip-smackingly good.

The experts say:

CW: "I can't see any veg apart from beans, and eating them with cheese sauce and tortillas means you're negating any of the good stuff. Horrible."

MP: "Better than having a burger, but there's too much cheese and sugar. It has got some veg, but I'm not sure it's two portions."

Score: 7/10

Innocent Indian daal curry tasty veg pot, £3.49 at Sainsbury's and Waitrose

Claim: one pot = three of your five-a-day.

We say: Fresh crunchy veg with subtle flavoured lentils, enjoyable, but nothing special.

The experts say:

CW: "I like this. You can see actual vegetables! Looking at the volume I wouldn't say this is three-a-day, I think it's two max."

MP: "This looks like real food. It has got good colour, looks fresh, with good ingredients and it doesn't have sugar in it. Excellent."

Score: 9/10

Eat Well Goan-style king prawn meal, £3.99 at Marks & Spencer

Claim: one meal = one of your five-a-day.

We say: Prawns, rice and veg in a nice mild sauce. A tasty lunch.

The experts say:

CW: "This isn't a processed product, so there's no artificial rubbish in it. You get what you see, which is good. I'd eat this, but I'd add some salad for a bit of extra goodness."

MP: "Good ingredients. You would get one a day from this, but if you added some extra veg it would be even better."

Score: 9/10


Eat Natural lunchies bars, £1.95 for 5

Claim: one bar = one of your five-a-day.

We say: Fruity and chewy with a sweet yogurt coating – we like it.

The experts say:

CW: "These are so sweet they're shocking. There's no need to give your kids this sort of snack. It's a shame because the adult bars with nuts are a pretty good product."

MP: 'This has got a yoghurt coating, raw cane sugar, and then added sugar. That's way too much. I wouldn't give this to my children."

Score: 2/10

Fruit Bowl school bars, £1.18 for 5

Claim: Counts towards one of your five-a-day.

We say: Like chewing rubber with an artificial fruity aftertaste.

The experts say:

CW: "Marginally better than the lunchies, but they taste repulsive and smell dead and artificial."

MP: "Because of the apple purée making up most of the bar, I don't mind them. They're not too sweet either, so better than some other snacks."

Score: 4/10


V8 100% vegetable juice, £1.37

Claim: One small glass = one of your five-a-day.

We say: A thick, tomato-flavoured drink. It's OK, but an probably an acquired taste.

The experts say:

CW: "This is more vegetable than fruit, so it's not just sugar, sugar, sugar. There are more mineral content and cleansing properties in vegetables."

MP: "Contains tomatoes, green vegetables and beetroot. Overall, a good product."

Score: 8/10

Higher Nature Easy 3, £17 for 10 servings,

Claim: 22g powder mixed with 150ml water = three of your five-a-day.

We say: Very strange flavour and leaves a powdery aftertaste.

The experts say:

CW: "The idea of taking a powder to satisfy three of your fruit and veg a day is a terrible way forward. It's all de-natured, dead food."

MP: "It's very portable, so if you're working in an office or on a train it's better than having a fizzy drink."

Score: 4/10

The experts' verdicts

CW: "It's sad that people feel the need to cheat. Fruit and veg should look like fruit and veg – if you can't see it, it's probably not there. I think you can get away with one or two of these products occasionally, but don't be fooled – concentrating food down and refining it negates a lot of it's beneficial properties."

MP: "We've got to get away from packaged, processed food. Some of these products take families away from what they should have – a fruit bowl."

Five-a-day: What you need to know

All good

* Fresh, frozen, chilled, canned and dried fruit and vegetables all count towards your five-a-day. You don't have to eat them on their own either – they can be in soups, stews, sandwiches, pasta sauces or puddings.

* Fruit and veg in ready meals and convenience foods do count, but be careful – these meals tend to have a high salt, sugar and fat content which could do more harm than good in large quantities.

* To get five-a-day you need to be eating five different fruits or veggies – five portions of broccoli still only counts as one. Fruit juice only counts as one portion, no matter how much you drink.

* Five pieces a day is not an average – it's a minimum. The more fruit and veg you eat, the better.

Bad bad bad

* Dietary supplements like vitamins and minerals don't count.

* Potatoes and other starchy carbs such as yams and cassava aren't included in the five-a-day quota. Neither are chips...

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