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15 surprising sources of fruit and veg that actually count towards your 5-a-day

guacamole, hummus, and pink dip surrounded by veggies and tortilla chips
Unexpected foods that count towards your 5-a-daynata_vkusidey - Getty Images

We all know how important it is to get our 5-a-day, and 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, wine is technically made from grapes).

But how much do you know about the more surprising sources of fruit and veg that still count towards your 5-a-day? Turns out, you might be getting more of your daily requirements than you realise.

Whether they're boiled, baked, fresh or dried, registered dietitian Ro Huntriss and Registered Nutritionist Uta Boellinger share 15 unexpected contributors to that 5-a-day:

1. Baked beans

How much? Half a 400g can

Are baked beans one of your 5-a-day? Turns out, yep! Beans are a double whammy of health; not only do they contain tomato sauce, they're 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 Huntriss.

2. Tomato puree

How much? 1 tablespoon

Whether you're whipping up a chilli, bolognese, curry or homemade pizza, who knew this handy little tube actually contributed towards your daily dose of fruit and veg?

"Tomato puree makes a great base for sauces, soups and stews, so is an easy way to up your intake. It’s also an excellent source of lycopene, a natural plant compound which is an excellent antioxidant and has been shown to help reduce cholesterol," nutritionist Boellinger explains.

3. Chickpeas

How much? 3 heaped tablespoons

The humble chickpea is another surprising 5-a-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," Ro says. "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. But hey, they taste great.

mixed raw salad with marinated, tomato, smoked paprika, honey, soy sauce, chickpeas on plate
Westend61 - Getty Images

4. Beansprouts

How much? 2 handfuls

While a Chinese takeaway might not be the healthiest way to get your dose (who can resist a serving of spring rolls with sweet chilli dipping sauce?), beansprouts are an underrated way to boost your daily nutrients (also found in the arguably more healthy option of Thai food).

"Beansprouts are great in stir fries, as well as adding texture and crunch to a huge range of dishes. They're also a great source of many nutrients like vitamin C and fibre," says Boellinger.

5. Olives

How much? 80g (or around 30 olives)

If you've ever wondered if olives count as one of your five-a-day, get excited. "Olives are often one people forget about but are a nice, tasty way to work towards that 5-a-day," notes Ro. 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.

6. Vegetable crisps

How much? 80g in total

Who said crisps all had to be unhealthy? Finely chop up some sweet potato, parsnip, and beetroot, and bake on a low heat until dry. You can also do the same to make crispy kale, spread out across a baking tray.

However, if you're adding too much salt or oil then your snack will become slightly less healthy than intended (so just a touch is best!).

7. Mushrooms

How much? 80 grams when fresh

Yes, it's obvious, mushrooms are vegetables (well, technically fungi if you want to go there) but did you know dried mushrooms are one of your 5-a-day too? As Boellinger explains, "Fresh and dried mushrooms are a great way to eat more veg – why not chop them into your bolognese or have them as a side to your scrambled eggs?" She adds that mushrooms are especially great in the winter months (which now seem scarily near) as they help to regulate your immune system.

womens hands holding mushrooms
Clover No.7 Photography - Getty Images

8. 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 Huntriss.

So why not swap your usual white mash/wedges/jacket potatoes for the sweet alternative for an easy (and totally delicious) serving of veg?

9. Sandwiches

How much? A large handful of salad, plus 4 cherry tomatoes and 4 slices of cucumber

There's nothing easier than popping a portion of your 5-a-day in between two pieces of bread (opt for wholegrain or seedy if you want to keep as healthy as possible) and gobbling up for lunch. Have as a sandwich, on toast, add your other favourite toppings and sauces, the options are endless.

10. 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 Huntriss.

11. Onions

How much? 1 medium onion

"Onions form the base of many dishes, so you may forget that they can actually count towards your 5-a-day," points out dietitian Ro. So onions do count as a vegetable, and not just a flavour enhancer. Plus, they're low in calories and a source of fibre. Tick, tick, tick.

One 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.

assortment of red and yellow onions displayed in wicker tray alongside shallots, leeks and garlic
Lynne Daley - Getty Images

12. Fruit juice

How much? A 150 ml glass

When it comes to aiming for that 5-a-day, one thing people can forget is fruit juice (though err on the side of caution with this). "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."

13. 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 of 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 Ro.

You could also make other dips like hummus or tomato salsa!

14. Spaghetti hoops

How much? Half a 400g can

It's time to revert right back to your childhood with this one (though we just have as much respect if they're still a part of your adult life).

"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'...

15. Dessert

How much? 80g of fresh, canned, or frozen fruit

Fruit doesn't need to be fresh to count towards your 5-a-day, and you can get inventive with the way you consume it. Frozen berries are especially great for frozen yogurt (fro yo, anyone?), ice pops, fruit compote, or simply added into smoothies. Just grab a spoon and tuck in (or have a refreshing lick).

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