Nestlé, a multinational food company, has put together a “train-the-trainer” programme for community-based organisations to educate people on how to prevent the underlying causes of chronic lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
As one of the companies that support the National Consumer Forum (NCF), Nestlé’s sponsorship is related to food as that is its area of speciality. The NCF personnel will be deployed to communities, primary schools in particular, to enlighten teachers about nutrition.
Connie Motau, a registered dietician and one of Nestlé’s facilitators of the training programme, believes that healthy food is not necessarily expensive.
“We teach people about different food types and the nutrients they derive from eating each type,” she says. “We stress the importance of eating a balanced diet and that they should learn to eat in moderation, [they should] know how much to eat.”
She says the important thing to know is that food contains macro- and micro-nutrients that include fat, protein, water, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. Some are absorbed by the body in relation to its needs whereas others are discarded as waste. It is therefore important for people to keep track of what they eat and when. “Variety is key — do not eat too much or too little,” says Motau.
Teachers should encourage learners to take part in physical activity to be healthy. Part of the reason why so many schoolchildren are overweight or obese is because they do not exercise enough, says Motau.
Teachers should also encourage learners to drink lots of water instead of soft drinks during the day. She says water ensures optimal functioning of the kidneys, helping to cleanse potential toxins from the body.
Teachers should strive to involve parents so that they communicate the same message to their children, says Motau.
“What is the point of a teacher promoting healthy eating habits in the classroom only to have this reversed at home?”
Regular parents’ meetings about the need for a balanced diet are an absolute necessity. Vendors or tuck shop operators should also be sensitised to contribute to the culture of healthy lifestyles by stocking appropriate foodstuff for learners to buy during break times.
Motau says teachers could cultivate vegetable gardens on school grounds and the focus should not only be on producing fresh food but also foster a love of good food among the learners. “That way, they develop an interest at an early stage and also get to appreciate the significance of food,” says Motau.
Motau suggests that healthy meals could include:
- A glass of fresh milk (not powdered);
- Bread with margarine and a fruit;
- Samp or beans with a small fat component;
- Bean soups;
- Plain scones opposed to vetkoek;
- Making sure when preparing food that nutrients are not lost through overcooking.