I’m sure the creators of the ‘5 a Day’ campaign are patting themselves on the back. After all, they’ve come up with one of the most successful marketing slogans of the decade. For the past 10 years the phrase ‘5 a Day’ has tripped off people’s tongues, and there can’t be anyone who isn’t aware of its existence.
But, 5 a Day must surely go down in the annals of history as the biggest food flop of all times. Why? Because even though we bandy the term about, few of us actually know how much fruit and vegetables go to make up that 5 a Day.
More worrying is that the 5 a Day slogan is used to promote unhealthy foods. The slogan has been a gift to food manufacturers, who have used it to promote their products with phrases like ‘counts towards your 5 a Day’. Note the operative words here – COUNTS TOWARDS.
Let’s go back to 2002: the campaign was started to persuade the nation to eat more fruit and veg. The Department of Health said eating 5 a Day would cut premature deaths from cancer by a fifth, and heart disease by two-fifths.
But then the confusion started. Just what size portion of fruit and vegetables constitutes one of your five-a-day? Experts claimed an 80g portion was the answer, but even that’s confusing. Is that 80g raw weight or cooked? 80g of dried fruit? No, when it comes to dried fruit, 30g is all that’s needed – and so it goes on.
If you’ve just had a jacket potato for lunch and are feeling worthy… the bad news is that spuds don’t count. Perhaps you’ve had two glasses of fruit juice today … sorry, that only counts as one. There’s nothing easy about this 5 a Day lark, is there?
Let’s take a look at a fairly average day. Perhaps you started with a breakfast of cereal and toast. No points so far. But you are trying to eat healthily, so you have an apple for elevenses. That’s one down, four to go.
How about a chicken salad sandwich for lunch? It’s got salad in it, so it must count, right? Wrong! While it might have some salad, the quantity is minimal. Cast your mind back to the 80g portion. Bags of supermarket mixed leaves weigh in at around 90g, so for the salad to count, you’ll have to stuff most of that bag of lettuce into your sandwich. But we’re being generous here, so if you have a glass of orange juice as well, we’ll give you another point. That’s 3 out of 5 so far.
Finally it’s dinner time. To use up your last three of your five a day, you’ll have to wade through all of these:
- 4 heaped tablespoons of greens
- 8 cauliflower florets
3 heaped tablespoons of carrots.
And in case you think we’re making it up, these portions were taken from the NHS 5 a Day web page. So as you’ll see, maintaining a diet of 5 a Day isn’t easy.
But in my opinion, the biggest 5 a Day scandal is how the campaign is being used by processed food manufacturers to mislead the public. Some smoothie drinks, for example, might contain enough fruit to count as one of your 5 a Day. But have you checked the sugar content? Some contain more sugar than a can of cola.
Ready meals proudly stating they ‘count towards your 5 a Day’ are likely to contain just a fraction of the recommended portion of vegetables. And what about the fat and salt content? Did you check that out?
I don’t think I’m alone in saying it’s time the government makes a stand on the 5 a Day campaign. They’ve achieved the awareness, now it’s time to take it to the next level.
Convenience food manufacturers must be made to take responsibility for their misleading labelling or be taken to task. The words ‘counts towards’ should be banned and instead an accurate percentage of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) clearly stated on all packaging.
And after that rant, I think it’s time to pour one of my 5 a Day. Well, wine’s made from grapes, isn’t it. Cheers!