As most of us are well aware, overweight and obesity are affecting the majority of South Africans, especially adult women and preschool children. This is putting South Africans at risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and strokes, diabetes and some cancers.
Some of the main reasons why people become overweight or obese are because they are:
- Eating large amounts of food (food portions);
- Eating high-energy foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt;
- Not eating a variety of food from the different food groups.
- Not engaging in regular physical activity
The time to change and act is now! Our mission at the Heart and Stroke Foundation is to halt the rise of premature deaths through cardiovascular disease (CVD) in South Africa and to promote the adoption of healthy lifestyles. Here are some key messages about making the right food choices and making them part of an overall healthy lifestyle:
- Eat a variety of food at each meal, in other words include foods from two or preferably more food groups at each meal:
- Serve the correct portions of food onto individual plates, instead of putting serving dishes on the table. This will avoid being tempted by second or more helpings.
- Be aware that your body may only experience feeling “full” sometime after eating your meal. Therefore, eat slowly, chew properly and pay attention to your body’s internal cues to avoid overeating. Do not eat in front of the TV as this may lead to being distracted and not paying attention to signals of becoming “full”, thereby leading to overeating.
- Stick to regular meal and evenly-spaced snack times and do not skip meals. Vegetable sticks or fruit and low-fat or fat-free yoghurt or milk are good examples of healthy snacks. Don’t eat too late at night or just before you go to bed.
- Encourage children to take a lunch box and healthy snacks such as fruit and yoghurt to school and to avoid buying meals and snacks that are high in sugar, fat and salt.
- Many restaurants serve more food than is appropriate for one person. Control the amount of food that ends up on your plate by sharing a meal with a friend or asking the waiter to put half the meal in a “doggie bag” or “take away container”. Alternatively order a small or regular portion size instead of a large portion or have a salad and a starter as your main meal.
- Limit the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (like fizzy drinks and sweetened juices) and replace with unflavoured water, maas or low-fat or fat-free milk.
- Buy fresh, plain frozen, or canned “no salt added” vegetables, meat, fish or chicken. Rinse canned foods like beans to remove some of the salt (sodium).
- Use fresh and dried herbs, spices, and salt/sodium-free seasoning blends in cooking and at the table instead of salt, canned soups, salad dressings, stock powders/cubes, and remove the salt shaker from the table.
- Choose food products with the Heart Mark as these are lower in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), added sugar and are higher in fibre (where applicable).