‘Eat your greens’, ‘finish your plate’, ‘close your mouth when you are chewing’, ‘eat your 5 a day’, mealtimes can be awash with direction, and whilst “manners maketh man”, what really counts when it comes to nutrition at mealtimes?

For years we have been directed to eat our 5-a-day, but are people using these guidelines to their maximum potential? The campaign was introduced in the UK several years ago to encourage people to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables throughout the day. It is a guide for adults to reduce the risk of developing a whole host of chronic diseases and educate and encourage children to reap the benefits of fruit and veg in their diets.

However, somewhere along the line, the message has been misconstrued, with many people ticking a box of five fruit or five veg, whether with variety or literally eating 5 grapes and calling it a day. The truth is that the 5-a-day campaign is based on a rationale that eating at least 400g of fruit and veg every day of around 80g each, will help to keep you healthy for years to come.

Some countries are more structured, like Australia, which advice consuming two portions of fruit and 5 portions of vegetables. It is their advice on how fruit and vegetables fall into five different categories; red, purple/blue, orange/ yellow, green and white/brown that starts to highlight the importance of the ‘rainbow effect’ and how this myriad of colour should be taken into consideration when ticking off that list every day.

Each colour carries its own set of unique disease-fighting chemicals called phytonutrients that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant make-up and some of their healthy properties, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes to name a few. These phytonutrients act as antioxidants, which help to ‘mop up’ potentially harmful molecules called free radicals before they get a chance to damage cells.

As well as encouraging us to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, nutritionists now say that ‘eating the rainbow’ means picking one daily serving of fruit and vegetables from each of the four colour groups. British nutritionist to the stars, Amelia Freer says: “Every single one of your meals should contain vegetables… as a rule try to eat the most colourful vegetables that you can find – aim for the rainbow. We all know greens are great so keep eating them but don’t forget to eat other colours too.”

So, keeping on counting those five a day, but just make sure that they are as pretty as a picture!