5 A DAY: what counts?

Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your 5 A DAY, making it easier than you may think to get your recommended amount each day.

Fruit and vegetables don't have to be fresh to count as a portion. Nor do they have to be eaten on their own: they also count if they're part of a meal or dish.

To find out how much is in a portion, see 5 A DAY portion sizes.

What counts towards 5 A DAY?

As well as fresh fruit and vegetables, the following all also count towards your 5 A DAY.

  • Fruit and vegetables cooked in dishes such as soups, stews or pasta dishes.
  • Beans and pulses. These only count as one portion a day, no matter how many you eat. That's because although they are a good source of fibre, they contain fewer nutrients than other fruits and vegetables.

Frozen and canned fruit and veg

  • Frozen fruit and vegetables.
  • Tinned or canned fruit and vegetables. Buy the ones tinned in natural juice or water with no added sugar or salt.
  • Dried fruit, such as currants, dates, sultanas and figs. 
  • Fruit and veg in convenience foods, such as ready meals and shop-bought pasta sauces, soups and puddings. Some ready-made foods are high in salt, sugar and fat, so only have them occasionally or in small amounts. You can find the salt, sugar and fat content of ready-made foods on the label. For more information, see Food labels.

Drinks and 5 A DAY

  • One glass (150ml) of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice. Juice counts as a maximum of one portion a day, even if you have more than one glass. This is mainly because juice contains less fibre than whole fruits and vegetables. Crushing fruit into juice also releases the sugars contained in the fruit, which can cause damage to teeth. Even unsweetened fruit juice is sugary, so try to drink no more than one glass (about 150ml) of fruit juice each day.
  • A smoothie containing all of the edible pulped fruit and/or vegetable may count as more than one portion but this depends on how it’s made. For more details, see 5 A DAY FAQs.  

Do potatoes count towards 5 A DAY?

No. Potatoes are a starchy food and a great source of energy, fibre, B vitamins and potassium. 

In the UK we get a lot of our vitamin C from potatoes. Although they only contain between 11-16mg of vitamin C per 100g of potatoes, we generally eat a lot of them.

When eaten as part of a meal, potatoes are generally used in place of other sources of starch, such as bread, pasta or rice. Because of this, they don't count towards your 5 A DAY.

Other vegetables that don't count towards your 5 A DAY are yams, cassava and plantain. They are also usually eaten as starchy foods.

Sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips do count towards your 5 A DAY, because they are usually eaten in addition to the starchy food part of the meal.

Potatoes play an important role in your diet, particularly if they aren't cooked with salt or fat, even if they don't count towards your 5 A DAY. 

They're also a good source of fibre, so leave the skins on where possible to keep in more of the fibre and vitamins. For example, if you're having boiled potatoes or a jacket potato, make sure you eat the skin too. 

5 A DAY: a wide variety

To get the most benefit from your five portions, eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.

For 5 A DAY recipe ideas, see 5 A DAY recipes.

For more information about a healthy, balanced diet, see Food and diet.

5 A DAY enquiries

If you have an enquiry about 5 A DAY that isn't answered in our 5 A DAY FAQs, please email the 5 A DAY team at Public Health England: phe.enquiries@phe.gov.uk.

Page last reviewed: 12/12/2013

Next review due: 12/12/2015

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The 29 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

wardh61 said on 25 April 2014

@KatieChar - The Australian website you referred to also says canned fruit is ok. If it's in natural juice, I don't see why it would be any different to "fresh" fruit in terms of its sugar content.

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KatieChar said on 10 April 2014

The Australian approach is much more helpful: http://www.gofor2and5.com.au/WhatisaServe/tabid/56/Default.aspx

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KatieChar said on 10 April 2014

It absolutely is not helpful to include tinned fruit (even in "natural juice"); convenience foods; fruit juice and smoothies on this list. These are far to high in sugar (and in the case of convenience foods, in salt, saturated fat, additives and what not), yet many believe they are "healthy" because they contain fruit and because manufacturers are allowed to make ridiculous health claims on the packaging... the list should be urgently revised.

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Richard W said on 02 April 2014

andrew275 - there are several reasons not to include potatoes (although I feel this whole advice is arbitrary it might be the best we can get from public health people). Here are some reasons not to eat potatoes - (note I do eat them sometimes but prefer to eat in small amounts infrequently)

1 - Compared to other vegetables, potatoes are dense in starch which metabolises to sugar, sugar quickly creates an insulin response and gets converted to fat by the body. This can be bad for several reasons depending on your metabolism.

2 - Potatoes have much higher (about double) calorific content than other veg, especially the green leafy ones we're more encouraged to eat.

3 - Potatoes are large and if you're eating them then you're not eating as much of the other vegetables which offer much better nutritional benefits.

4 - Potatoes are actually poisonous, some of the poison is cooked out of them, but it's fair to say that they are relatively new to the human diet. (hundreds of years rather than hundreds of thousands of years) so our bodies have not evolved specifically for them. Whether that causes harm or not is another question.

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kjl404 said on 13 January 2014

It's frustrating reading the potato debate in these comments because it's utterly pointless! 5 a day is not a collection of rules it's a collection of guidelines... and it's the bare minimum! 5 was the number chosen because it was the most the panel believed they could get the average unhealthy Brit to eat. Many other European countries have these guidelines but the number usually higher: 8 a day, 10 a day or even 12 a day.
Increasing fruit and vegetables is important because the average UK diet is very deficient in certain vitamins and minerals and far too high in sugar and starch. Potatoes aren't included because it is easy to bulk a meal up with them and eat little else. This would defy the point, especially as they don't provide many of the nutrients that your diet may be lacking.
If you are struggling to reach 5 a day then this is not good and whether or not you can include potatoes is beside the point.

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aaron_bradley said on 23 May 2013

Great information, although it has highlighted that i'm actually achieving my 5 a day. This website uses the same information but is easier to find out the amount required for each fruit or veg: www.whats5aday.co.uk

I use it every time i make my lunch!

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aaron_bradley said on 23 May 2013

I have realised that i actually get even less of my five a day than i thought.

This website using this information but makes it easy to see the amounts for each fruit or veg... I give it a little check every time i make my lunch, its great! www.whats5aday.co.uk

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andrew275 said on 26 April 2013

The poor reason given for not including potatoes seems to devalue the whole article by giving the impression that the writer does not know or understand the real reasons.
Surely it does not matter if Potato is also a starch part of the meal - if it provides the benefits (fibre, vitamins, etc) required to qualify for 5 a day then it should be counted. It would seem quite acceptable to also say that it can only be counted once per day (for example because a range of items will give a wider range of vitamins).
If on the other hand there are reasons why potatoes do not qualify then this should be stated. For example if the salt or fat in chips is counter productive then people could choose to eat unsalted boiled potatoes.
Surely if the choice is Potatoes vs a refined starch like bread / pasta / rice, then potatoes is better because it also gives the benefits of a vegetable.

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CaloriesAndFat said on 10 April 2013

The issue with respect to the assertion that fruit and veg (f&v) consumption is good for our health is that I can find no robust science to support it. In fact it seems that no scientific study has ever been done to compare a diet of no f&v to a diet with f&v! Unfortunately, most of the dietary recommendations on this website (and many others) have no basis in science.

Most randomised control trials (the best form of clinical evidence) featuring f&v focus on testing the success of methods to make us eat more, rather than on whether there is actually a benefit to health from eating more! Referring to an analysis conducted by an America Doctor as of last year there were 762 clinical studies listed in PubMed (scientific search engine) concerning veg and human health, but only 38 studies were related to specific health effects of actual veg consumption. 18 of these 38 studies did not find the health benefit they were looking for. The remaining 20 studies did find a health benefit when comparing groups of people who ate more (f&)v to those who ate less.

However, there are flaws in these results, which illustrates the need to examine any study of nutrition and health to ensure it is robust and consistent with the scientific method. Of the 20 studies that found a benefit, 10 did not take refined carbohydrate into consideration. This means that the group of people who ate more (f&)v might have been healthier because they were eating less refined carbohydrate. The remaining 10 studies that found a benefit also changed other things (alcohol, smoking, exercise etc). Thus, we do not know what caused the benefit.

The point is clear, while f&v may be good for us, we actually don’t know if it is. But there is evidence that they are not essential for health as demonstrated by those hunter gather populations that ate virtually no f&v (Eskimos, Masai, Sioux and others) but did not have much incidence of “western” diseases.

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Sally11 said on 20 February 2013

Supose I have sweet potato instead of normal potatoes rather than as well as - do they then count as 5 a day or as the starchy part of the meal?

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JerusalemSlim said on 15 January 2013

To all those talking about potatoes: one of the biggest reasons it isn't included in the list of vegetables is because generally it's already a staple of the British diet. You want to be eating potatoes as well as a variety of other fruit and vegetables.

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KWGlasgow said on 02 October 2012

The only fruit and veg I eat are apples, satsumas, pears, strawberrys, melon, sweetcorn, peas, cucumber & orange juice (and the usual onions, tomatos etc that are cooked into food)

My partner doesnt think this is varied enough but tbh I would struggle to fit anything else into my eating habits and I'm also quite fussy..

Do you think if I eat 5 of these a day this is ok? (sometimes I only manage 4)

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Pomme said on 16 July 2012

The fact that potatoes don't count says to me the whole thing is bunkum and just based on bureaucratic/political claptrap! So best ignored.

The primary point for 5 a day is roughage intake, a portion of potato has as much fiber as a portion of broccoli & only slightly less that that of sweet potato.

To say it shouldn't count because of what it might replace or that it might get over-counted is just nonsense.

If conditions need to applied say so, don't apply stupid rules.

Until this is dealt with sensibly & bureaucrats disregarded, it should be treated as just another governmental white elephant.

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kazukikama said on 18 May 2012

@Cloink because sweetcorn isn't a cereal, it's a vegetable.

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Cloink said on 29 March 2012

If sweetcorn is considered a 'vegatable' and counts towards your 5 a day, why don't other cereals?

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User626457 said on 20 December 2011

A_N_Other, you're comment has appeared, I read it. The point is not to be fearful of fruit. The portions are 5 a day, that includes fruit and veg. 5 pieces of just fruit won't kill you or become detrimental to your health. Of course, going above that amount could and is probably detrimental to one's health. The main danger is fruit juices that are now made with corn syrup. You're right, high fructose content will harm your liver as this is the method of its metabolism. I think one needs to keep an eye out for foods containing high levels of corn syrup. In fruit it is naturally occurring and in moderate amounts, provided if one stays within the limit of 5 a day. However, the fruit juices and pop are the main worriers and causes of today's rising obesity and diabetes epidemic and the reason being is that the sweeteners such as corn syrup are added to a higher concentration than that of naturally occurring fruits. The liver is a great organ as with any organ, it is not as weak as you think. It can break down fructose, takes a longer time and is a complex process. It's not as harmful as what a constant battering from alcohol will do. Nonetheless, too much of anything is harmful for you.

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A_N_OTHER said on 19 December 2011

Where has my comment gone? It appeared then vanished.

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Slush_Puppy said on 10 September 2011

No Cloink, it doesn't count, because the five a day relates to fruit and vegetables.

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Cloink said on 25 July 2011

Why are people getting bogged down in potatoes? Can anyone answer my question?

Do cereals, seeds & nuts count towards your 5 a day?

In particular, I eat a lot of self-mixed muesli containing unprocessed, often organic, wholegrain cereals such as wheat, oats & barley, as well as bran & wheatgerm, and shelled brazil nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds & pumpkin seeds.

I know these are all very good for you, but I've never seen them included in a '5 a day checklist'.

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al_1990 said on 29 June 2011

The point about potatos is that if they were considered to be a 5 a day item, then many people would get their 5 a day without even needing any fruit or other vegetables. Perhaps upping the target number of portions and putting a cap on the amount of portions potatos can count towards.

My other point is that you can make this decision for yourself. At no point in our day must we give a little salute and say:
'I solemnly swear that, on this day, I consumed 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, of which no more than 1 consists of juice, no more than 2 consists of smoothies...Etc and certainly no potatos'

I think this website is fairly clear about its reasons for advising you not to include potatos as part of a 5 a day count. You may ignore that advice if you wish, cos at the end of the day its up to you. Its just that the healthcare professionals are suggesting that if you do want to maintain healthy eating habits, that counting potatos interchangeably with other fruits and vegetables is not a useful way of going about it, and that their function in our diets is different.

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al_1990 said on 29 June 2011

The point about potatos is that if they were considered to be a 5 a day item, then many people would get their 5 a day without even needing any fruit or other vegetables. Perhaps upping the target number of portions and putting a cap on the amount of portions potatos can count towards.

My other point is that you can make this decision for yourself. At no point in our day must we give a little salute and say:
'I solemnly swear that, on this day, I consumed 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, of which no more than 1 consists of juice, no more than 2 consists of smoothies...etc and certainly no potatos'

I think this website is fairly clear about its reasons for advising you not to include potatos as part of a 5 a day count. You may ignore that advice if you wish, cos at the end of the day its up to you. Its just that the healthcare professionals are suggesting that if you do want to maintain healthy eating habits, that counting potatos interchangeably with other fruits and vegetables is not a useful way of going about it, and that their function in our diets is different.

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kb209 said on 29 June 2011

I think people are missing the point slightly... there's no dispute that the potato has its own nutritional merits, but in terms of meal planning it is more convenient to group it with rice, pasta etc, as it means you are still getting your starch component of the meal (plus the nutrition), and also by taking this approach it leaves room for other fruits/veg to make up your 5.

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Cloink said on 21 June 2011

Do cereals, seeds & nuts count towards your 5 a day?

In particular, I eat a lot of self-mixed muesli containing unprocessed, often organic, wholegrain cereals such as wheat, oats & barley, as well as bran & wheatgerm, and shelled brazil nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds & pumpkin seeds.

I know these are all very good for you, but I've never seen them included in a '5 a day checklist'.

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El Beanio said on 27 March 2011

There may well be good reasons for potatoes not being included in the acceptable range of 5-a-day vegetables, such as very high starch content, but I agree that reasons given of this page are not convincing and seem pretty arbitrary.

For example, it is stated that sweet potatoes count because "they are usually eaten in addition to the starchy food part of the meal". That doesn't seem a good reason on health grounds, but based on a culinary convention!?

It would be far more useful to specify the exact level starch content (or other health or nutrition-related factors) that disqualifies a food from counting towards the 5-a-day.

It is true that sweet potatoes are lower in starch (but higher in sugar) than potatoes. They also have a somewhat better nutritional profile overall I believe, and, despite the higher sugar content, a lower GI. So overall probably a better dietary choice than ordinary potatoes. But as with many other things, variety is the spice of life!

I feel a website like this should give accurate, detailed and factual reasons for any recommendations made.

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j dawg said on 10 March 2011

potatoes should definitely not count......

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bcfcdom said on 10 March 2011

I just see no reason at all why potatoes don't count towards your five-a-day?!

They're classed as vegetables but they don't count towards your 5 fruit and veg a day??

What's French for potato?

Otherwise a very informative and interesting article.

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GillianKynoch said on 03 January 2011

Potatoes should be part of your 5 ADAY. The reasons given against are weak and contradictory. Beans and lentils are often eaten as protein but are recognised as a vegetable too.New potatoes are higher in Vitamin C than many fruits and vegetables counted. Potatoes are an important source of potassium, Vitamin C and some B Vitamins. Fresh potato consumption is declining making way for imported pasta and rice. British public health information should be doing more to promote this healthy low cost vegetable.

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grahamofaldwincle said on 25 November 2010

I see that the campaign against the humble potato goes on. Potatoes are a wonderful vegetable full of goodness (as admitted above). And if starch is so bad, why are bananas allowed ? Bananas have as much starch as potatoes. Apparently also sweet potatoes count, but ordinary potatoes don't. Weird ! The fact that potatoes are
"classified nutritionally as starchy food" is meaningless. They are still full of goodness however they are classified !

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dkcrooby said on 04 February 2010

I found this really informative as I'm really trying to get the family to eat their 5 a day.

Thank you

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