OVERWEIGHTNESS and obesity affect the majority of South Africans, especially adult women and preschool children, and this puts South Africans at risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and strokes, diabetes and some forms of cancers.
Some of the main reasons people become overweight or obese are because: they eat large amounts of food, especially energy-dense foods high in sugar, fat and salt; they do not eat a variety of food from the different food groups; and they do not engage in regular physical activity.
By making small changes to your daily food routine you can reduce the risk to yourself and your family members. Eating habits are cemented at an early age, so setting an example for your children is important from the start. Following the guidelines below will help you to make these changes.
- Eat a variety of food at each meal: Include foods from two or more food groups at each meal;
- Keep to regular meal and snack times and do not skip meals. Don’t eat too late at night or just before bedtime;
- Make use of fresh or frozen foods as much as possible, avoiding canned foods, ready- to-prepare or ready-to-eat meals;
- Eat slowly, chew properly and pay attention to your body’s internal cues to avoid overeating as you may experience feeling full only some time after eating your meal;
- Do not eat in front of the TV as this distracts you from your meal and internal cues of fullness;
- Encourage children to take a lunch box and healthy snacks such as fruit and yoghurt to school instead of buying meals and snacks that are high in sugar, fat and salt;
- Avoid meals high in sugar, fat or salt: Do not add extra fat, sugar or salt to your food during cooking; and
- Rather use herbs, spice, garlic, onion, lemon juice or sodium or salt-free alternatives when cooking and leave the salt shaker off the table.
- Vegetable sticks or fruit and low-fat or fat-free yoghurt or milk are good examples of healthy snacks;
- Keep snack foods out of reach to avoid unintentional overeating. If you don’t buy it you won’t be tempted to eat it;
- Making healthier foods easily accessible in the home increases the likelihood of eating more of these foods. Place a bowl of fruit or fresh cut vegetables on the counter for snacks before supper; and
- Choose healthier low-fat, low-salt snack options, eg air popped corn. Put snacks in a small bowl when watching TV and leave the rest in the kitchen.
- Serve the correct portions of food onto individual plates leaving serving dishes in the kitchen to avoid second helpings;
- Use smaller plates, bowls, and serving utensils; and
- Use a smaller glass to limit the amount of drinks or beverages consumed at a time.
- When ordering meals from fast food restaurants, order a small or regular portion size instead of a large portion and have salad or vegetable(s) to complete your meal;
- Look out for words such as cream, sautéed and fried as these options will be higher in fat. Choose foods that are fresh, steamed, grilled or baked; and
- If your dish is served with a sauce ask for it to be served on the side.
- Include clean, safe water daily; and
- Limit the intake of sugary beverages like fizzy drinks and sweetened juices. Replace these drinks with unflavoured water or artificially sweetened beverages.