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9 Foods You Didn't Realise Count Towards Your 5-a-Day

You're probably being healthy without even knowing it.

We all know how important it is to get our 5 a day, but what does that really mean? You can probably fairly easily tell your fruit and veggies from your 'less healthy' foods; broccoli and bananas, yes. Excessive amounts of cheese and wine, not so much (although if you need to justify it to yourself, remember wine is technically made from grapes).

But if you're the kind of person who doesn't pay much attention to what you put in your mouth, you might be getting more of your daily requirements than you realise, thanks to these surprising (but pleasing!) foods that count towards your 5-a-day total.

Whether they're boiled, baked, fresh or dried, Registered Dietitian Ro Huntriss shares 9 surprising contributors to that 5-a-day:

1. Baked beans

How much? Half a 400g can

Beans are a double whammy of health; not only do they contain tomato sauce, but they're also made from haricot beans, and pulses like this count as one of your 5-a-day. You'll only get one serving total from a ladleful of Heinz's finest, but that's better than nothing, right? "Pulses are high in fibre, but due to containing fewer vitamins and minerals than other fruit and vegetables, they will not count as more than one of your 5-a-day," says dietitian Ro.

2. Chickpeas

How much? 3 heaped tablespoons

The humble chickpea is another surprising 5-day bonus, although this is before you've whizzed them with heaps of oil or deep-fried them, obviously. "Chickpeas, the key ingredient in hummus and falafel, can count towards your 5-a-day," explains the expert. "But similar to baked beans, they are considered a pulse. Therefore, if you had a portion of baked beans and chickpeas, this would still only count as one of your 5-a-day." Yup, sadly no matter how many pulses you eat, it's not going to budge beyond that one portion.

3. Olives

How much? 80g (or around 30 olives)

"Olives are often one people forget about but are a nice, tasty way to work towards that 5-a-day," notes the dietitian. That's because they provide vitamin E and a reasonable dose of fibre. However, Ro warns, "olives are high in salt and if submerged in olive oil can be higher in calories. So for these reasons, keeping to an 80g portion is appropriate." Noted.

5 a day, sources, fruit, vegetables, olives

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4. Sweet potatoes

How much? 80g (a medium sized potato)

Sorry to break it to you, but regular white potatoes are too starchy to count towards 5-a-day totals. Their sweet orange cousins, however? They are on the list. "Sweet potatoes have a lower starch content than their white counterparts, and are a source of several nutrients including vitamin A and vitamin C," says the expert. So why not swap your usual white mash/wedges/jacket potatoes for the sweet alternative for an easy (and totally delicious) serving of veg?

5. Raisins

How much? 1 heaped tablespoon

Whether you sprinkle them in your cereal or mix them with a bowl of nuts for a tasty afternoon snack, raisins are a great way to sneak in a boost to your 5-a-day. "Due to dried fruit containing less water, it is more concentrated in nutrients and sugar, so just 30g or a heaped tablespoon constitutes a portion of raisins," explains Ro.

6. Onions

How much? 1 medium onion

"Onions form the base of many dishes, so you may forget that they can actually contribute to another one of your portions of vegetables for your 5-a-day," points out dietitian Ro. So onions do count as a vegetable, and not just a flavour enhancer. Who knew! Plus, they're low in calories and a source of fibre. Tick, tick, tick. 1 medium onion will cook down quite a bit in dishes like risotto, soup, or pasta sauce, but if it still feels too full-on, go for milder leeks or shallots, which will still help you hit the quota.

7. Fruit juice

How much? A 150 ml glass

When it comes to aiming for that 5-a-day, one people can forget is fruit juice. "Fruit juice contains many nutrients, however it is higher in sugar," says Ro. "Therefore, stick to one portion of 150ml, a small glass, and that’s all you need for your 5-a-day.

8. Guacamole

How much? One serving prepared with half an avocado

Hands up who loves nachos? Okay, so that'll be all of us. But what you might not realise is that, salty chips and cheese aside, they can actually be pretty good for you. Guacamole is packed with essential 'good fats', thanks to its high percentage of avocado, and a spoonful or two of salsa will provide you with onions too. "80g avocado will present you with another portion of fruit and veg. Avocado is a unique fruit and is higher in fats and calories than other foods in this group, but the fats within it are healthy and help to protect the heart. They also contain plenty of fibre," explains the dietitian.

9. Spaghetti hoops

How much? Half a 400g can

"I love reminding people that spaghetti hoops count towards our 5-a-day, and it’s due to the tomato sauce," says Ro. "Spaghetti hoops are fortified with iron and vitamin D which makes them an even better choice." You had me at 'hoops'...