A healthy lifestyle helps to prevent and control chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Remember to keep an eye on your portion sizes, keep physically active and avoid smoking. The following guidelines explain what a healthy diet is all about:
1. Enjoy a variety of foods.
Eating different types of food gives your body all the nutrients it needs. The more colourful your plate of food is, the wider the variety.
2. Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils or soya regularly.
They are a good source of protein, low in fat and high in fibre. You can replace meat in some meals with these ingredients.
3. Make starchy foods part of most meals.
These foods can help you feel fuller for longer and lower your risk of developing obesity, heart disease and cancer. Good examples are wholewheat bread, coarse maize (mealie) meal, oats and brown rice.
4. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day.
Remember to eat vegetables and fruit from the different colour groups (red, green, yellow and orange). The vitamins, minerals and fibre in these foods help to protect you against chronic diseases. Aim for five portions of vegetables and fruit every day.
5. Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs can be eaten daily.
Choose lean or lower fat options with less bad (saturated) fats. Bad fats can increase your cholesterol and block your blood vessels, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Try to include tinned or fresh fish as part of your diet at least twice a week. Good examples are pilchards, snoek, sardines or tuna.
6. Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day.
Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium. This can help protect your bones and help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. Good options are low-fat or fat-free dairy products and reduced-fat cheeses.
7. Use salt and foods high in salt sparingly.
Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and cancer. Some salt in your diet comes from salt added at the table during cooking, but more than half of the salt that you eat comes from processed foods. Examples are stock cubes, soup powders, crisps and processed meats like polony. Gradually cut down on adding salt to your food and soon you won’t notice the difference.
8. Use sugar and foods and drinks high in sugar sparingly.
Too much sugar can make you gain weight, which increases your risk of chronic diseases. Sugar in your diet comes from sugar added to hot drinks, cereals and cooking. High amounts of sugar are also found in cakes, biscuits, doughnuts, sweets, chocolates and sweetened cold drinks.
9. Use fats sparingly. Choose vegetable oils, rather than hard fats.
Eating too much fat and fried food can make you gain weight and raise your cholesterol. Limit the amount of fatty red meat, butter, hard margarine, cream, lard and ghee that you use. Rather use good (unsaturated) fats like oils (canola, olive or sunflower oil) and soft tub margarine in small amounts. Nuts, seeds, peanut butter and avocados are also sources of good fats.
10. Drink lots of clean, safe water.
You need about 6 – 8 glasses of water a day. Most of this should come from tap water, but can include drinks like tea, coffee or diluted 100 % fruit juice. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.