You have probably heard the advice to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Most of us have but do you really know what that means? Does it mean three veggies and two fruits? 4 veggies and 1 fruit? 5 fruits and 3 veggies? What does a serving mean? How much is it? It all can get very confusing.

The answer to these questions is not that easy to find, there is confusion amongst the “experts” but now the government has clarified the guidelines.

How much is enough?

The Australian and New Zealand governments recommend that adults eat at least 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables per day. The amount for children depends on their age. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should aim to eat 4 to 5 serves of fruit and 6 to 7 serves of vegetables to meet the extra demands of the body.

What is a serve?

  • •   One serve of VEGETABLES = 75 grams
  • •   One serve of FRUIT = 150 grams (fresh fruit)

A standard serve is about 75g (100–350kJ) or: ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example, broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin) ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (preferably with no added salt) 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetable.

Choose fresh fruit instead of fruit juice or dried fruit. Juices have lower fibre content than fresh fruit. Dried fruit, if eaten in large quantities, can contribute to tooth decay because it contains a concentrated form of sugar that sticks to your teeth.

Are you getting enough?

Recent research from the ABS showed that most Australians would benefit from increasing their fruit and vegetable intake. In 2011, 70% of Australians over 12 years usually ate less than 4 serves of vegetables per day.

What stops you from getting 7 a day?

Lack of time for healthy shopping
Look out for canned and frozen fruit and vegetables; they can be just as nutritious. Buying your fruit and vegetables in this way also means you have plenty at hand when you need it without having to spend time stocking up with fresh produce every few days. Healthy eating doesn't mean you can't make use of convenience foods.

5 a day is too expensive
Don't be fooled, you could find healthy eating better for your budget. Fruit and vegetables (excluding exotic/imported ones) are surprisingly cheap. An average banana costs 60-70 cents - less than most bars of chocolate/chips from the vending machine - and provides more in the way of nourishment for fewer calories.

Choose in season fruit and vegetables, not only are they cheaper they will also be most flavoursome. Markets also tend to be cheaper than supermarkets, particularly if you catch them when they packing up for the day. Alternatively opt for supermarket branded tinned or frozen fruit and vegetables.

Dislike all fruit and vegetables
With such variety of tastes, it's hard to believe anyone can dislike them all. Also remember that tastes change as you age and therefore things you detested in your youth (like brussel sprouts) may be a lot more palatable now. Try a different fruit/vegetable each week until you find some you enjoy.

Working your way to five a day

Make it a mission to start working to your five to seven a day quota. Remember you don't have to include all five portions overnight - your body probably won't thank you for it! (A sudden change can cause uncomfortable bloating and gas). Don’t rush out and buy a heap of fresh fruit and vegetables only to watch it rot in the fridge/fruit bowl over the coming week. Build up gradually, make it a habit and remember each extra serving is a step in the right direction.

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