11 Healthy Eating Guidelines
Healthy eating doesn’t need to be boring or expensive. The truth is that it can be as simple as making small changes to the way you eat, like eating more of this and less of that, or using healthier cooking methods.
Top tips for a healthy diet
The following tips will help you and your family to eat a healthy, balanced diet every day:
Include low-fat milk, maas or yoghurt in your diet every day
Choose low-fat or fat-free products and reduced-fat cheeses instead of full cream dairy.
Enjoy a variety of food
Eating lots of different types of food will give your body all the nutrients it needs.
The more colourful your plate of food, the more variety you’ll have!
Add less salt to your food and avoid processed foods that are high in salt
A fair amount of salt in our diets comes from salt added at the dining table or during cooking; however, more than half the salt we eat comes from processed foods. Examples of high salt foods are: stock cubes, soup powders, chips, crisps and processed meats like polony (baloney) and viennas.
Salt intake should NOT be more than one teaspoon of salt a day from all sources. Substituting salt with spices, herbs and lemon juice will help you cut down on the amount of salt you eat. If you gradually add less salt to your food, you will soon not notice a difference.
Eat less sugar and avoid food or drinks high in sugar
Too much sugar can make you gain weight, increasing your risk of chronic disease.
Sugar routinely added to hot drinks, cereals and cooking can make up a significant portion of the sugar in your diet, while very high amounts of sugar are also found in cakes, biscuits, doughnuts, sweets, chocolates and sweetened cold drinks and fruit juices.
Many processed foods have ‘hidden sugar’ in them, labelled as sucrose, fructose or glucose.
If you have diabetes, it is even more important that you limit these types of foods.
Try to eat five portions of vegetables and fruit a day
Adding lots of vegetables to soups and stews can help you reach this target. Remember to eat fruit and vegetables from the different colour groups and to include some raw fruit and vegetables in your daily diet.
The vitamins, minerals and fibre in these foods protect us against many diseases.
Eat less fat and use the healthier, unsaturated type of fats or oils
Eating too many fats and fried foods can make you gain weight and cause heart disease.
Therefore, decrease the amount of fatty red meat, butter, hard margarine, cream, lard and ghee that you eat. The high amounts of saturated fats in these foods can increase your cholesterol and block you blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Rather use good (unsaturated) fats like sunflower or canola oil and soft tub margarines in small amounts, and include nuts, seeds, peanut butter and avocados in your diet.
An easy way to cut down on saturated fat is to always remove the visible fat from meat and the skin from chicken.
Drink plenty of clean, safe water every day
It is recommended that you drink about 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. Most of this can come from tap water, but drinks such as tea, coffee or fruit juice mixed with water can count as well.
Eat pulses such as dried beans, split peas, lentils or soya at least twice a week
These foods are good, affordable sources of protein and are low in fat and high in fibre.
Replacing meat in some meals with these foods will benefit your health.
Control the amount of alcohol you drink
Drinking alcohol has been linked to various cancers, including cancer of the throat, breast, colon, liver and prostate.
It is recommended that women should not have more than one drink a day and men, not more than two drinks a day. One drink is equal to a can of beer (340 ml) or a small glass of wine (120 ml) or a tot of spirits (25 ml).
If you have diabetes or have hypertension, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol altogether, as it can raise your blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also not drink alcohol at all, as it can cause serious damage to the baby’s growing brain.
Eat small portions of chicken, fish, meat or eggs every day
It is best to limit eating red meat to only a few times a week.
When choosing chicken or red meat, choose lean options. Try to eat at least one vegetarian main meal and two fish meals a week. Good options are fresh or tinned pilchards, snoek, sardines or tuna.
Eggs are also a good, more affordable alternative source of protein compared with meat.
Make high-fibre starchy foods part of most meals
Eating high-fibre food helps you feel fuller for longer, lowers your cholesterol levels and keeps your digestive system healthy. High-fibre foods also lower your risk of developing obesity, heart disease and cancer.
Good examples are brown or wholewheat bread, coarse maize meal (pap), oats and brown rice.