For some people, making healthy food choices is a difficult task. When you go to the market or grocery store to shop, what do you buy? When faced with the choice of what to snack, what wins? Your food choices will eventually affect your health but whether positively or negatively is up to you. Making healthy food choices is very important. Every day we make choices among foods based on our cultural background, knowledge, experiences, and goals (and cravings!). Each choice will have an impact on our overall health and quality of life. Today, advances in agriculture, transportation, food preservation, and storage bring nearly every type of food from diverse parts of the country (and indeed the world) to our markets. Kiwis from China, Quinoa from Bolivia and Broccoli from the USA now flood our stores thus making food selection a bit more challenging for us.
They want to eat healthier, but do not know how to go about it. Others develop a food pattern and stick to it not minding whether it is healthy or not. A lot of the time, this pattern contains a limited variety of foods.
Fortuitously, nature has provided us with an array of foods to choose from different groups and colours. Foods available in food groups. Food group containing a selection of foods that are a slightly similar in structure and provide different types and amounts of nutrients.
FOOD GROUPS FOR MAKING HEALTHY CHOICES
- Cereals and grains : Rice, corn, oats, millet, sorghum, wheat, quinoa, bread, breakfast cereals and pasta
- Legumes, nuts and seeds: Beans, melon seed, lentils, green peas, groundnuts, cashew nuts, walnuts, Bambara nuts, sesame seeds, ogbono, flax seed, chia seed etc.
- Roots and tubers: Potatoes, yam, cocoyam, plantain
- Fruits: Orange, bananas, apples, pawpaw, pear, tangerine, watermelon, lemon, grapefruit, pineapples etc.
- Vegetables: Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, pepper, tomatoes, onions, carrots, cucumber, green leafy vegetables etc
- Meat, fish, poultry and eggs
- Milk and milk products e.g. yoghurt, cheese
No food group can provide the adequate amount of nutrients needed for the body. To get the best of nutrients from food and get healthy food choices , it is best to purchase and eat from various food groups every day.
TIPS FOR MAKING HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES
- Choose natural foods over refined, processed and packaged foods. Natural foods contain less additives and more vitamins and minerals.
- Reduce intake of sugar and sugary drinks (e.g. Soda and Concentrates). These are known as ‘empty calories’ because they supply only simple sugars and nothing more. Avoid bulk buying and hence the temptation to drink them. Replace sugary drinks with water.
- Avoid butter, fatty meat (meat with visible fat on the body, liver, kidney, intestine etc.), fried foods, commercially baked and fried foods, pastries and ice-creams. These contain saturated and Trans fat.
- Snack on fruits instead of pastries. Keep fruits handy and available.
- Fruits and vegetables should make up an important part of your meal. Ensure to eat at least 3-4 servings of different types of fruits and vegetables each day. Variety is very important. Fruits are best eaten in between meals or about an hour after food.
- When shopping, choose the low fat milk and yoghurt options. Include whole grain foods and legumes in your meals.
- Eat protein foods. Choose more plant based protein foods.
- Avoid frying, boil instead.
- Drink about 3 litres of water in a day. Limit Alcohol, coffee and energy drinks intake.
- Eat at least three times daily (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) in normal quantities and avoid skipping meals. Skipping meals increases temptation to snack on junk!