Losing weight tops the list of New Year’s resolutions around the world, but it isn’t working in our country. Two thirds of South African women and a third of men are overweight. While it’s true that obesity as a disease has complicated origins, the contribution of a Westernized diet with easy access to “unhealthy” food options cannot be overemphasized. Healthy eating plays a critical role in the prevention and management of overweight and obesity.
With the ongoing media hype around diet, we are constantly being told to watch this, ditch that and ease up on those – and most of us have lost sight of the basics of what healthy eating actually is.
The 2 golden rules of healthy eating: Variety and better choices
The first principle of a healthy diet is simply to eat a wide variety of real foods, because different foods make different nutritional contributions. Besides, living on carrot sticks alone isn’t fun for anyone. Remember your mother saying: “unless you eat all your food & veggies, you can’t have any pudding!” She knew what she was talking about. Healthy eating or a balanced diet means eating enough of what you need for good health (and before eating the treats). Moms know everything!
Secondly, fruits, veggies, grains, and legumes – foods high in complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, together with natural fats should make up the bulk of the calories you consume. The rest should come from dairy products, meat, poultry and fish. There is a lot of hoo-ha around this at the moment – my recommendation is to boot all refined carbs (think bread, biscuits and added sugar), and that not all fat is the enemy. Bottom line – eat more real food, eat less junk food. Remember, if it comes from a plant, it’s good, if it was made in a plant … it’s not good!
Isn’t healthy eating expensive?
There is a perception that eating a healthy diet is more expensive because nutritious food costs more, but that’s just not true. If you consider only cost per calorie, then sure, bananas are going to be more expensive than doughnuts because they have less calories, meaning less bang for buck. But using price per calorie doesn’t tell you how much food you’re going to get or how full you are going to feel. So the doughnut may cost you R2 less, but a banana will keep you going for longer, with fewer calories, and therefore less chance of going back for more. And that “more” might cost way more than R2!
Not only that, but a recent study ranking 4000 different foods by price, calorie, weight and portion size revealed that from least to most expensive foods were grains, dairy, vegetables, fruit, protein and processed foods. How much more proof do you need that you can afford a healthy diet?
Buying seasonal fruit and veg, cooking and eating at home and shopping on a full stomach are all great ways of increasing bang for your buck!
A note from Vital’s Experts:
Vital has a range of foods designed to make healthier eating both convenient and delicious. Click here to view the food range.