Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Healthy Eating: Are you having a variety in your meals?

Healthy Eating

The enjoyment of food is one of life’s pleasures. Eating is about more than satisfying hunger, it is also a part of family life, social events and celebrations.

Having a variety makes meals more interesting and helps to ensure that an eating plan supplies all nutrients.

  • Mixed meals are usually eaten three times a day (breakfast, lunch and supper). Eating regular mixed meals, of a similar size, is part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Healthy eating plans include a variety of foods from each food group, over time.
  • Variety also means including foods from two or more food groups at each meal; these are called mixed meals.
  • Variety also means preparing foods in different ways.


  • Enjoy a variety of foods.
  • Be active!
  • Drink lots of clean, safe water.

Mixed Meals

  • Make starchy foods part of most meals.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day.
  • Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya regularly.
  • Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs could be eaten daily.
  • Have milk, and yoghurt every day.
  • Use fat sparingly; choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats


Use salt and foods high in salt sparingly. It is believed that a high salt intake leads to an increase in blood pressure in genetically susceptible persons; if the high salt intake is maintained over the long-term it will lead to hypertension.

Some of the salt in the eating plan comes from salt added during cooking and at table, but most comes from salt added when processed foods are produced and when salt based seasonings and sauces are used in home food preparation.

  • A high salt intake is a risk factor for the development of high blood pressure.


  • Use sugar and food and drinks high in sugar sparingly. A small amount of sugar can be added to foods and drinks like soft porridge or tea to improve the taste. Foods made with sugar, like jam, may be used to make a mixed meal or a snack. Sweets and cold drinks may be eaten occasionally but should not be eaten instead of mixed meals, or when a person does not have money for groceries.

  • Frequent consumption of sugar, especially between meals, is a risk factor for dental decay.
  • Frequent consumption of sweetened cold drinks and fruit juice can lead to obesity, when the total energy value of the eating plan is higher than needed.


Water is essential for life. Water is lost through the kidneys, the bowels, the skin and the lungs. Most of these losses occur without us knowing about it. Water that is lost must be replaced by liquids from food and drinks.

  • Drink clean, safe water every day as recommended.
  • Some water may be taken as tea or coffee; if sugar is added, use it sparingly.
  • Keep a water bottle close by during the day; you will drink more water when it is easily available.
  • Drink extra water in hot weather and when you are very active.
  • Limit the number of drinks you have that are high in sugars, this includes fruit juice, sports drinks, energy drinks and cold drinks.

Children and adults need about 6 - 8 glasses
of liquid a day;
most of that should be from water and drinks made with tap water.
There are no health benefits to ‘binge drinking’ water; when excess water is consumed it will be excreted as urine.



Vegetables and fruit are rich sources of vitamins and minerals, fibre and they contain water. Including these foods in meals helps to fill you up without adding too much extra food energy. There are many health benefits of an eating plan that contains recommended amounts of these foods.

  • Eat vegetables in at least one or two mixed meals a day. Fruit can be eaten with meals, or as a snack between meals.
  • Vegetables should be eaten every day, and not only on weekends.
  • Everyone should have one unit of vegetable or fruit a day that provides beta carotene (which becomes vitamin A in the body). Examples are carrots, pumpkin, butternut, spinach, mango, pawpaw, yellow peaches and nectarines. (Note: oranges and cabbage do not contain beta carotene).
  • Prepare vegetables and fruit with little (if any) added fat, sugar and salt. Vegetables with beta carotene should be lightly boiled and served in a meal that has fat, or else have a little oil added.
  • Make soup from fresh vegetables instead of using packet soup; this will be nutritious and low in salt.
  • Vegetable and fruit juice are not recommended as a regular replacement for fresh vegetables and fruit. They do not have much fibre, are high in sugar and vegetable juice may have added salt.

Beans and Lentils

Adding dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya to a meal increases the nutrient content of the meal. Eating foods from this group decrease the risk of a wide variety of degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and different types of cancer. Eating these foods even helps to combat overweight and they help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

  • Every week plan to include meals that use dry beans or soya instead of meat or chicken.
  • Use dry beans, lentils, split peas and soya as an ingredient in mixed dishes, such as samp and beans, rice and lentils, beans in vegetable sauce with pasta.
  • Dry beans or soya can be included with meat or chicken dishes; this will improve the overall nutritional value of the dish (less fat, more fibre) and reduce the cost of each serving.
  • Cook dry beans in a wonder box to save electricity.

Fish Chicken and Meat

These foods are popular food choices for many people in South Africa, however these foods do cost more than foods in the other food groups, and should not be used often when the family has a limited budget for food. The guideline explains that foods from this group could be eaten daily – not that they should be eaten daily. The food guide unit serves show that only one option from the list could be included each day.

Cheese is included in this group, but should not be the food type chosen most often. This is because it is high in fat and salt. Organ products from animals, such as liver and kidneys are also part of this food group.

Fish with fatty flesh (pilchards, sardines, mackerel, and salmon) provide omega 3 fatty acids, a nutrient this is found in very few food sources.

Many of these foods also have a high content of fat, most of which is saturated fat. Saturated fat has a negative influence on health, so people are advised to use lean types of meat and to remove fat and skin from chicken.

  • If included, eat these foods in the recommended quantities, not very large portions.
  • Use lean meat, remove skin and fat from the chicken, and limit use of processed meat

Eat well and keep diseases away.

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