This is something that I have thought for a long while and it’s a topic that has recently been in the news with some arguing we need 10 portions a day and others claiming just 3-4 portions of fruit and veg are enough. Both articles claim scientists came to these conclusions, so it’s no wonder we are always confused about nutrition and food guidelines when even the scientists studying the topic can’t agree. There’s quite a difference between three portions and ten portions!
I’m definitely on the ten portion side of the fence.
I cannot believe that you can be considered healthy if you only eat three portions of fruit and veg per day on average. I also don’t believe you can claim you’re healthy if you only eat five.
Is the 5-a-day portions of fruits and vegetables enough?
I think the whole 5-a-day campaign makes people think they are leading a healthy lifestyle if they follow this rule, but sadly that’s not true. How do I know this? Because I was one of them.
In my early twenties I made sure I got my 5-a-day. This whole campaign is shoved down our necks from school and is even on food labels. We all know we should get our 5 portions each day. Everyone knows this. But I don’t believe it’s enough and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re healthy.
If I ever had a doctor’s appointment in my early twenties and they asked if I was healthy I’d always say yes. But looking back, I wasn’t healthy at all!
Sure, I got my 5-a-day, but that was the only healthy thing about me. I smoked up to 20 cigarettes a day, though I’d tell the doctor I only smoked 5-10, I drank most evenings by going to the pub for after work drinks, I went out clubbing at the weekends and I honestly ate a load of junk.
But I got my 5-a-day so that meant I was healthy right?
I think this is the problem with the whole 5-a-day campaign. They make you feel like you’ll be OK as long as you get your 5-a-day. The problem is, that’s now the bare minimum I think people should be eating.
To show you what I mean here’s how a typical work day would have gone for me ten years ago. This is when I worked in a popular High Street clothing store where we were all very social. We went to the pub for lunch and after work most days:
Breakfast: orange juice (1 portion) and a high sugar cereal and yoghurt (not good)
Snack: crisps or pasty from Greggs which was next to our work, so often one of us would do a pasty run for everyone mid-morning (not good)
Lunch: Usually a pub lunch of a jacket potato with cheese, beans and salad or a cheese and beans toastie with chips and salad (2 portions at a stretch – the beans and the salad) – oh and sometimes a pint of cider and black or a fizzy drink (not good)
Snack: A piece of fruit or 2 (1-2 portions) and chocolate/sweets (not good)
After work: crisps and a few pints of cider and black (not good)
Dinner: pub food, takeout, pizza (lots of pizza) or a microwave type meal (possibly 1 portion, sometimes none)(basically not good)
Cigarettes: 10-20 depending on length of time in pub in the evening
I was a healthy weight and I didn’t have any illnesses, but I was NOT healthy. I was squeezing in 5 a day, but the rest of my diet was pub food, microwave meals, takeout and generally junk food! It totally counteracted anything good I was putting into my body. Plus I drank alcohol almost every day and smoked. At the weekends my smoking and drinking habits would go through the roof as I went for a night out, or two, on the town.
But I called myself healthy because I was a normal weight and I got my 5-a-day. I feel this is because it was drummed into me from an early age that you just need to get those 5 to be healthy. Plus, if you’re a healthy weight, you’re healthy right? We now all know that’s a load of rubbish. It’s what’s on the inside that matters. And I’m sorry, but 5-a-day is simply not always going to cut it.
Now in my 30s I am absolutely health obsessed. Perhaps subconsciously I know I need to make up for all those years of damaging my insides from a party lifestyle. Believe me, every day was a good day to party back then, we didn’t always wait for the weekends and often went out mid-week to cheap student nights as we were always on the guest lists for clubs and bars for working in a cool fashion shop. I’d often sacrifice eating anything at all, just so I could spend more on alcohol and cigarettes.
Oh to be carefree and young. Or totally stupid and unhealthy!
I can only wonder what damage this all did to my body and how much it has aged me prematurely and will affect my future health. I pray I can reverse any ill effects through my total lifestyle overhaul.
My point being, getting 5-a-day does not make you healthy. I think it’s irresponsible of some articles to now suggest people only need as few as 3 portions a day to be healthy. That’s so wrong in my opinion and going backwards. There are no end of studies suggesting we need to up our intake and lead more plant based lives, not only for the good of our health, but for the good of the planet too.
Of course, it’s not all about fruit and veg either, even though they play a major part. I used to think I was healthy because I got my five a day, but the rest of my lifestyle was so unhealthy! You need to focus on all areas of your health to be genuinely healthy. You need to make sure you attend your dental check ups. You need to exercise. You need to visit your optometrist and use glasses or progressive lenses if they’re recommended. You need a good skincare routine. You need to focus on your mental health. Sure, five a day is a step in the right direction, and the very least you can do, but it’s not really enough and it’s not the only healthy lifestyle choice you need to make!
I now regularly get around 10 portions of fruit and veg a day. I almost never get ill or catch a cold. I exercise regularly and thankfully I stopped smoking and drinking alcohol almost seven years ago. I’ve since been on a health mission to be the healthiest I can be. I returned to vegetarianism a few years back, more recently cut out dairy and one year ago I stopped consuming anything with refined sugar. I read articles and watch food documentaries every single day to inspire me and top up my knowledge. I’m a health and data junkie!
If you want to start being healthier and getting more than 5-a-day, I recommend checking these out to start you on your journey. Once you start researching you’ll find so many more!
Joe Cross – Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
Hungry for Change
Our Planet from the Air
That Sugar Film
Kris Carr – Crazy Sexy Cancer
May I Be Frank
Ben Fuchs – The Body is a Healing System
Robert Lustig – Sugar: The Bitter Truth
Blogs and Media
Plant Based News
The main thing is to do your own research. Don’t believe all these attention grabbing headlines in the mainstream media, especially when it comes to food and nutrition. Read it, then go away and do your own research. Find opinions or studies on both sides and then come to your own conclusion.
To me it makes sense that we should be eating as much fruit and vegetables as possible and ignoring anyone who suggests a mere 3 portions daily is enough.
More great blog posts!