Healthy Eating: What You Need To Know
A healthy diet is necessary for good health and nutrition. It provides us with the necessary nutrients and energy to carry out the activities of the day, as well as providing necessary nutrients to protect us from communicable and noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke. A healthy diet prevents malnutrition (having too little nutrients or too many), puts you in a great mood, maintains your overall health and gives you energy.
A healthy diet often comprises many food items. These may include:
- Carbohydrates, such as yam, bread and rice. They are a rich source of energy.
- Proteins, such as beans, soybeans, eggs, fish and meat. These food items are responsible for growth and development, as well as nourishing your cells.
- Fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, apples, plantain and carrots. They contain essential vitamins, fibre and minerals.
- Oils, such as palm oil and groundnut oil. They are a rich source of energy and contain nutrients important for your organs.
Unhealthy eating habits contribute to the burden of disease globally. The benefits of healthy eating are enormous. While it may seem complicated to create a dietary plan that will encompass all the different food groups, it is essential to have a balanced diet as it improves the wellbeing every age group. Use these tips to start eating healthy and reduce your chances of developing non-communicable illnesses.
- Babies and young children
Breastfeeding newborns exclusively (no other food or drinks) for at least 6 months give them a quick start to life. Breast milk contains all the necessary nutrients for their growth and development. It also contains materials that will provide immunity against infections and reduce the risks of developing lifestyle diseases (such as obesity) in the future. For children older than 6 months, it is important to introduce other food items (which are fortified) alongside breast milk. After weaning, children should be fed safe and nutritious meals with fruits and vegetables included.
- Older children and adults, reduce the intake of fat and oils.
Fats and oils are sources of energy. However, excessive intake, especially of the wrong type of fats can increase the risk of developing noncommunicable diseases. Use unsaturated vegetable oils instead of animal fat and boil more, instead of frying.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
These are natural reserves of important vitamins, minerals, and fibre. They are also rich in antioxidants and lower the risk of developing obesity, stroke and some types of cancer. Make a decision to eat fruits and vegetables every day and avoid overcooking vegetables to prevent the loss of important vitamins!
- Limit sugar intake.
Limiting your intake of sugars, especially processed sugars is beneficial to your health. It also reduces that risks of tooth decay and unhealthy weight gain. Choose fresh fruits instead of soda, fruit juices, cookies and snacks.
- Choose homemade or wholesome meals as often as you can.
This helps you take charge of what you eat, limit the intake of additives and excess calories. Limiting your intake of junk food items and snacks is beneficial to your health as they contain only a small percentage of beneficial nutrients and may cause weight gain. If you have to choose snacks, choose raw vegetables and fresh fruits. Remember, hygiene is very important!
- Reduce salt intake.
A high intake of salt and salted food items increases your chances of developing hypertension, heart disease and stroke. You should also limit the number of salted condiments or seasoning in your food.
- Eat regularly.
Skipping meals creates unnecessary problems with your diet. It may cause you to be fatigued, less active at your day-to-day activity or be unable to concentrate. Avoid late dinners and midnight snacking.
- Drink plenty of water.
Whenever you feel thirsty, choose water always. It helps keep you hydrated and allows your kidneys to function without any fuss by helping remove toxins. It also makes you feel full and stops you from overeating.
It may be necessary to make these dietary changes gradually. Crating a meal plan may be tasking at first but you should persevere. You may also enlist the help of a partner who will help you out as you cut out unnecessary and possibly harmful food items, or create reminders on your phone or computer. Indulge your cravings every once in a while, but avoid reverting to the past.