5-a-day: We know the message but not the portion size.

How much is ‘5-a-day’? A qualitative investigation into consumer understanding of fruit and vegetable intake guidelines

Rooney et al., JHND Early View


Despite the known health benefits of fruit and vegetables (FV), population intakes remain low. One potential contributing factor may be a lack of understanding surrounding recommended intakes. The present study aimed to explore the understanding of FV intake guidelines among a sample of low FV consumers.


Six semi-structured focus groups were held with low FV consumers (n = 28, age range 19–55 years). Focus groups were recorded digitally, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically using nvivo (QSR International, Melbourne, Australia) to manage the coded data. Participants also completed a short questionnaire assessing knowledge on FV intake guidelines. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse responses.


The discussions highlighted that, although participants were aware of FV intake guidelines, they lacked clarity with regard to the meaning of the ‘5-a-day’ message, including what foods are included in the guideline, as well as what constitutes a portion of FV. There was also a sense of confusion surrounding the concept of achieving variety with regard to FV intake. The sample highlighted a lack of previous education on FV portion sizes and put forward suggestions for improving knowledge, including increased information on food packaging and through health campaigns. Questionnaire findings were generally congruent with the qualitative findings, showing high awareness of the ‘5-a-day’ message but a lack of knowledge surrounding FV portion sizes.


Future public health campaigns should consider how best to address the gaps in knowledge identified in the present study, and incorporate evaluations that will allow the impact of future initiatives on knowledge, and ultimately behaviour, to be investigated.

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