Resource Digestive Health

Maintaining a healthy diet

Healthy eating guidelines
Healthy eating does not 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. The following tips will help you and your family to eat healthily.

  • Have low-fat milk, maas or yoghurt every day.Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium and are important for healthy bones and teeth. They can also help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. 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 will have.
  • Add less salt to your food and avoid processed foods high in salt.Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and cancer. Some salt in our diets comes from salt added at the table or during cooking, but 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 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 the 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 in your diet can come from sugar added to hot drinks, cereals and cooking, but 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 are diabetic, 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 the target of 5 portions. 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 against many diseases.
  • Eat less fat and use the healthier type of fats or oils.Eating too many fats and fried foods can make you gain weight and cause heart disease. 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. You need 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 dried beans, split peas, lentils or soya at least twice a week.These foods are good, affordable sources of protein, are low in fat and high in fibre. Replacing meat in some meals with these foods will benefit your health.
  • If you drink alcohol, control the amount 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 are diabetic or have hypertension, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol altogether, as it can raise your blood sugar and blood pressure. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also not drink any alcohol at all, as it can cause serious damage to the baby’s growing brain.
  • Small portions of chicken, fish, meat or eggs can be eaten 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, and more affordable, alternative source of protein to meat.
  • Make high-fibre starchy foods part of most meals.Eating high-fibre food helps you feel fuller for longer, lowers your cholesterol and keeps your digestive system healthy. High-fibre foods 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.
  • Use healthy cooking methods.Use healthy cooking methods.


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