12 surprising sources of fruit and veg that you didn't realise count towards your 5-a-day

surprising sources of fruit and veg, two toasts of dark bread with avocado slices, chopped tomatoes, fried egg and microgreen breakfast concept top view, pink background healthy food
Surprising foods that count towards your 5-a-dayAndrew Olifirenko

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 surprising sources of fruit and veg that 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 12 surprising 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 Ro.

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-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.

surprising sources of fruit and veg, quinoa chickpea salad with tomato, cucumber, pomegranate and avocado

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?) beansprouts are an underrated way to boost your daily nutrients.

"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 are 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 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 as they help to regulate your immune system.

surprising sources of fruit and veg, dried shitake mushrooms
Federica Di Marcello

7. 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 Ro.

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

8. 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 Ro.

9. 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. Who knew! 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.

surprising sources of fruit and veg, red onion slices

10. Fruit juice

How much? A 150 ml glass

When it comes to aiming for that 5-a-day, one people can forget is fruit juice. "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."

11. 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 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.

5 a day, sources, fruit, vegetable
Westend61 - Getty Images

12. Spaghetti hoops

How much? Half a 400g can

"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'...

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