10 ways to help kids get their 5-a-day

It’s not always easy to encourage children to eat their 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg.

However, the NHS says that children (and adults!) should eat at least this many portions every day[1]

Why? Because fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre to support a healthy gut[2]. These vitamins and minerals can help protect against disease, support a healthy immune system and help to ensure the healthy growth and development of children[3].

Luckily there are ways to ensure your child gets their 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg. Check out these expert-approved tips as well as all the info you need on adequate portions of fruit and veg…


What is a healthy diet?

Ashly Volkert, Nutritionist at Eat Natural says that a healthy diet is about getting a balance and variety of foods from the main food groups.

“There is not one size that fits all and dietary needs vary,” says Ashly, which essentially means that as individuals, we may require differing levels of certain nutrients.

The British Nutrition Foundation says that everyone is different and the principles of healthy eating can be adapted to suit you[4]. For adults and children over two, there are some principles that can help ensure a healthy diet.

This includes eating at least 5-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables, eating plenty of fibre-rich foods such as wholegrains, including a range of protein-sources especially beans, peas and lentils, including some dairy foods or fortified alternatives, choosing mainly unsaturated fats and oils, and, minimising foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugars[5].

What counts as a portion of fruit or veg?

The NHS says that as a rough guide for children, one portion of fruit and veg is the amount they can fit in the palm of their hand[6]. Naturally, this will increase as the child grows up.

For children aged 1 to 4 years old, aim for 40g portions[7]. Try half an apple, a small slice of melon, three large strawberries, half a pepper, half a banana, 1 inch of sliced cucumber or half a sliced orange.

Typically for adults, one portion of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and veg is 80g. With dried fruit on the other hand, 30g (equivalent to 80g of fresh) counts as a portion. Fruit and vegetable juices do also count, however, it is just one 150ml portion that will count towards a child’s 5-a-day. An 80g portion of beans and pulses also counts towards the 5-a-day count, however much like fruit juice, only one portion will count. 

A note on potatoes; unfortunately, this tasty starch doesn’t count towards the 5-a-day count. Sweet potatoes on the other hand, do count[8].

How can I encourage my child to eat more fruit and veg?

There are some simple tactics that can help your child eat their 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg.

Firstly, it’s a good idea to start them young, as habits are more likely to stick if they have been practising them from an early age. Plus, encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables as snacks, to stop children from wanting processed, packet foods. In time, this can help them to automatically turn to these healthier foods when they want something to eat. 

Ashly points out that it’s really important to get children involved and to get creative.

“They are more likely to eat the foods they create, following safe practice,” says Ashly.

She also suggests growing your own fruit and veg.

“This gets children planting and picking themselves and is greeted with lots of enthusiasm,” she adds.

How can I encourage my child to eat more fruit and veg at breakfast?

The first meal of the day can be a tricky one to fill with fruit and vegetables, not just for children, but for adults too!

Ashly recommends a fruity breakfast, by adding chopped fruit to breakfast cereal or even oats.

“Add a handful of raisins or fresh fruits such as bananas or strawberries for added nutritional benefits.”

You could even try fruit kebabs. These are colourful and interesting for children; cut the fruit into large chunks and thread the fruit onto wooden sticks. Just be sure to choose sticks suitable for the child’s age.

A small glass of no-added sugar juice can also be a good way to ensure your child gets a portion of fruit and veg.

How can I encourage my child to eat more fruit and veg at lunch and dinner?

There are some nifty ways to add extra fruit and veg to your child’s lunch and dinner, without them really knowing. 

Ashly suggests adding sweet potato, swede, carrot and/or parsnip into mashed potato for extra nutrients, plus, rice can be jazzed up with peas and sweetcorn. 

“If you’re blending vegetables into sauces, it’s important to make sure that some whole vegetables are also offered in the dish to encourage learning about whole foods and to expose them to the foods they are unaware they are eating,” advises Ashly.

“Try adding veggies to their favourite foods. You could try a rainbow pizza; include vegetables as toppings to make a dinner favourite into a healthy meal.” 

Stick to colourful vegetables, so that they’re more appealing for children.

You could even make funny faces out of veggies to make them appear more ‘fun’.

“Another way to encourage your child to eat more fruit and veg is to introduce new vegetables occasionally and then ask everyone round the table to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 for taste, texture and colour,” says Ashly.

“Dunking stuff is also fun,” she adds. Try dipping french beans, carrots, cucumber and pepper along with bread sticks or even asparagus into soft boiled eggs or dips.

Remember that consistency is key when it comes to encouraging your child to eat their 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg.

“Don’t give up at the first hurdle,” says Ashly.