If the advice "Eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day" is known by most of us, in practice, do you really know what it means? Is it about eating 5 whole fruits or vegetables? Do juices, soups, compotes or fruit yoghurts "count"? And is it the same for an adult or a child? Find out more about this recommendation and how to integrate it into daily life.

fruit and vegetables

Why five?

At the origin of the slogan "Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day", there is the National Nutrition and Health Program (PNNS), a public health plan launched in 2001 by the French government to preserve or improve the health status of the population by acting through nutrition. This program and its recommendations are based on the state of scientific knowledge.

For example, for fruits and vegetables, hundreds of epidemiological studies have shown that people who consume more fruits and vegetables are healthier (link to the article on the protective health effects of F&V). And this positive effect is all the stronger the more fruits and vegetables are consumed. In light of this knowledge, a target consumption of at least 400g of fruit and vegetables per day has been defined and agreed upon at the international level (WHO). As not all fruits and vegetables are equivalent in terms of quantity, this daily target is translated into portions.

What is a serving of fruits and vegetables?

In adults, a portion of fruits and vegetables is the equivalent of 80 to 100 g. In terms of volume, this corresponds to the size of a fist.

It can be for example a small apple, five plums, 10 strawberries, a banana, a plate of raw vegetables, or 100 g of soup.  

For children, there is no defined grammage because the quantity will increase with the age of the child, but the mark of "1 portion = fist size" remains valid.

Thus, a glass of smoothie with 5 fruits will not constitute 5 portions but only one. The same goes for soup: a ground soup with several vegetables "counts" as one serving.

Does the number of fruits and vegetables have to be equal?

This recommendation is a guideline! The number of fruits and vegetables does not necessarily have to be equal. Depending on your tastes, your daily wishes or your schedule, you can eat three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit, eat all your portions in the same meal or spread them out over your meals for the day. The ideal is of course to try to include fruits and vegetables in each of your meals and to vary the products you eat as much as possible to get the most out of them.

In what form should they be eaten?

Fresh, frozen, canned, crunchy, in salads, slices, steamed, in soup, gratin, pureed, compote, whatever the form and container, as long as there is the right amount, i.e. 400g of fruit and vegetables per day spread over the whole day. The ideal is to favour raw products and homemade preparations to preserve the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals, while controlling the amount of salt, fat and sugar added to your fruits and vegetables.

If they are without added sugar, compotes can be counted as part of your daily servings. Pure fruit and vegetable juices can also count as one serving but no more than once a day because whole fruits and vegetables remain essential for chewing, fibre intake and satiety.

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