Why is it important for South Africans to make healthy food choices?

The 2016 South Africa Demographic Health Survey (SADHS) found that 68 per cent of women and 31 per cent of men in the country are overweight or obese. About 20 per cent of women and three per cent of men are severely obese. Approximately 13.3 per cent of children younger than five years are overweight or obese, which is more than double the global average of 6.1 per cent. Furthermore, the rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among adults has increased together with the increase in obesity. In South Africa, 51 per cent of all premature deaths can be attributed to NCDs, and a poor quality diet is one contributor to the development of these conditions.

What are the healthy food choices that a household should make?

  • Enjoy a variety of whole foods, i.e., unprocessed or minimally processed foods.
  • Buy healthy, affordable foods.
  • Drink lots of clean, safe water instead of sugary drinks.
  • Prepare healthy home meals rather than buying ready-to-eat snacks or meals.
  • Use cooking methods such as boiling, steaming, grilling and baking instead of frying.
  • Be mindful about the amount of fat/oil, sugar and/or salt that is added in food preparation and use these items sparingly as far as possible.
  • Eat regular meals and choose healthy snacks.
  • Practice healthy eating habits, e.g., eat lots of vegetables and correct portions of other foods.
  • Grow your own vegetables and fruit. Homegrown vegetables can be much cheaper than store-bought vegetables.
  • Families should eat together without distractions (e.g., cell phones or TV).

Why is it important to have regular meals every day?

  • Setting and keeping to a plan of regular, healthy meals helps most people to stay healthy, maintain a healthy weight and prevent hunger. It helps to prevent overeating at meals or snacking on unhealthy foods during the day which can lead to the development of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
  • The goal is to eat at least every –four to five hours during the day in order to re-energise one’s body and keep blood sugar levels consistent and for optimal digestion of food.

Why is it so important to eat breakfast?

Eating breakfast has many health benefits:

  • Forms part of a healthy lifestyle – people who eat breakfast regularly tend to be more active and follow a healthier lifestyle.
  • Can provide important nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals.
  • Contributes to healthy eating choices throughout the day and prevents you from feeling hungry and snacking on energy-dense and often expensive foods during the day.
  • Helps to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Helps to prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Improves alertness, mood, academic performance and learning behaviour.

Can one have snacks during the day?

Most healthy eating plans allow for one or two small healthy snacks a day. If it is not possible to have lunch or dinner at the scheduled time, then it helps to have a healthy snack to avoid overeating at the next meal. Eating a vegetable or fruit as a snack also helps to be able to get to the recommended three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit per day.

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