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The Importance of a Child’s 5-a-day

Janet Aylott

Janet Aylott

Registered Nutritionist

child holding herbs in garden

Fennies are proud to be accredited by the Early Years Nutrition Partnership (EYNP) for our menus and contribution to supporting good nutrition in the early years. As part of our subscription, we are delighted to bring you regular nutrition updates and evidence-based articles written by our Registered Nutrition Professionals from EYNP, Janet Aylott and Catherine Lippe. 

This months’ topic: Why is 5 a day important for children? 

You might be familiar with the 5-a-day message but why do we need to eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily and what counts as a portion for children?  

Why does my child need their 5-a-day?

Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre. Collectively these nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on health and in particular can reduce the risk of serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. 

How much?

Children over the age of 12 months should aim for 5 portions of fruits or vegetables daily. A portion is 40g or roughly a child’s handful. Using palm size can be a more practical way of measuring fruit and vegetable portions and allows the portion sizes to grow as the child grows.

For children aged 1-4 years, a portion equates to approximately:

  • ¼ – ½ apple, orange, banana, peach, nectarine  
  • 1-3 tablespoons carrot, peas, or sweetcorn
  • 1-4 cherry tomatoes   
  • 2-10 grapes, berries, or cherries
child holding beans

What counts?

Fresh, frozen, tinned fruit (in juice, not syrup), tinned vegetables (in water not salted water), and dried fruit all count. Portions of dried fruit should be limited to around 15g for children. This is the equivalent of 40g of the fresh fruit weight.  

Unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice and smoothies also count but portions should be limited to a maximum of 150ml daily. This is because natural sugars from the fruits and vegetables are released during juicing or blending which can cause tooth decay. Juices and smoothies should only be served at mealtimes, not in between meals or with snacks, to minimise the risk of tooth decay. Drinking more than 150ml of juice or smoothies will only count as 1 portion.  

green juice

Tips

If your child is reluctant to try different fruits and vegetables, start with the ones they do like and gradually add small portions of new fruits or vegetables to their plate. Good role modelling and repeated exposure are key to encouraging children to try new things so eat with them and keep trying.

Try including fruits or vegetables into play. Adding real fruit or veg into role play, messy play, art, and craft activities, reading stories about fruits and vegetables, going on shopping trips, or cooking together are all great ways to expose children to the foods without the pressure to eat them

parent and child preparing vegetables

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