The term ‘five a day’ was coined based on research from the World Health Organization on basic human needs. The Department of Health decided that five portions a day was just enough to not become malnourished and was realistic for British people. However, five a day has now become a flippant common phrase rather than something which is taken seriously by the public.
A review by Cancer Research UK in 2011 linked 14,900 cases of cancer back to lack of fruit and vegetables, and 16,300 cases of cancer linked to being overweight and obese. It is clear that something isn't right with our current nutritional guidelines and they need improving as soon as possible. My full-time job is running a national fitness business, but in my spare time I'm a health activist through my non-profit organisation, Double 5 A Day. The aim of the campaign, as you might have guessed, is to improve the current five-a-day policy to 10 a day, as well as improving what constitutes a portion of fruit and vegetables. This campaign isn't out to prove the Government wrong; it's about creating a healthier and happier nation through eating a few more fruits and vegetables.
The Government has focused the majority of its efforts to tackle obesity on fighting calories. With lots of labels on food telling consumers how many calories they contain, they then base their daily energy requirements on the average of 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men. The problem here is that if you base the majority of your weight-management efforts on calories, then you are saying one food is exactly the same as another. For instance, if one woman ate 1,700 calories of bread a day, and one woman ate 1,700 calories of chicken and broccoli a day to lose weight for 30 days, then you would get very different results. What we need to do is inspire the nation and start getting people to firstly focus on what they are eating and then the amount of calories they are consuming.
A common objection I face about the campaign is that “most people aren't eating five a day, let alone 10 a day.” I faced this objection recently when I was asked by Sky News to comment on global obesity. My counter-argument is that, when we are given a target, the majority of us will only reach about 75% of it. Translated to five a day, people on average only eat three or four portions of fruit and vegetables a day because they think they're almost there and that will do. If we increased this to 10, people would eat at least five if not seven or eight portions, exceeding the old low standards of five a day. Ten a day might sound a lot but when we break it down, it's easily achievable. At breakfast, you have two fruits, at lunch and dinner you have three vegetables and one fruit. In terms of everyday meals, we recommend people have porridge with a banana and a kiwi fruit at breakfast, a tuna nicoise salad and apple at lunch, then a turkey stir fry with an orange for dinner. Not very encroaching or straining.
It's a very simple idea, but the simpler an idea is, the more effective it is. The campaign has an online petition that needs 100,000 people to sign it in the next 12 months for the issue to be raised in the House of Commons.
For more information and to sign the petition visit www.Double5aDay.org
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.