We all need food to function and carry out our bodily needs. However, what we eat can also affect us positively or negatively. Wrong food choices have been implicated in a number of diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, cancer, and obesity to mention a few.
Food can either be nutritious or poisonous to our system depending on what we eat, the quantity and whether or not we exercise. It is therefore important we make right choices in our eating habits to protect our health and prolong our lives.
Using a guide from the “healthy eating plate” developed by experts at Harvard School of Public Health; the following recommendations are the best available science right now as regards nutrition. They have been adapted to fit the Nigerian diet.
• Every meal time should consist of a balanced diet where whole grains, healthy protein, healthy oils, vegetables, fruits and water are incorporated.
• Half the meal at every point in time should consist of vegetables and fruits (with vegetables being of higher proportion). The other half should comprise of whole grains and proteins.
• An example using Nigerian diet of a healthy eating plate could be vegetable soup with wheat or oatmeal and chicken, with an orange to finish up and water to wash it down. The vegetable soup should have been made with healthy oils like olive, canola or plant based oils. Limit use of palm oil.
• The wheat or oatmeal represents a whole grain. Refined grains should be limited. These include white rice, white bread. While whole grains include brown rice, our local unprocessed rice, wheat and so on. Whole grains are healthier and more nourishing than refined grains.
• For proteins, choose healthy proteins like fish, poultry (chicken, turkey), beans or nuts. Limit red meat like beef, processed meat like sausages. Taking these kinds of protein regularly can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and weight gain.
• Drink lots of water as water is calorie free and avoid sugary drinks which contribute to obesity and diabetes.
• Milk is good but as an adult limit to low fat and just one serving per day. Children can take as much milk as they want.
• The healthy eating plate also suggests that fruit juices should be limited to 100% fruit juice and just a small glass daily.
• Finally, to be healthy, you need to stay active. Engage in exercise. Even a brisk walk daily for at least 30 minutes will do. For an adult, try to walk for at least 30 minutes – 1 hour at least three times a week or every other day.
• For it to be exercise, your heart rate and breathing rate has to go up. You should still be able to speak but not be able to sing a song.
Healthy eating and exercise are key to healthy weight and healthy life in general. Do try to make necessary changes for a healthier life today.