/ 23 May 2024

10 do’s and don’ts when it comes to the food you eat

Vegan Lunch. Chocolate Smoothie Bowl, Buddha Bowl With Tofu, Chickpeas And Quinoa, Lentil Soup And Toasts On A Gray Background.
For optimum health, make your plate a canvas filled with colours from nature.

Ensure that there is enough variety in your diet, and go easy on sugar and salt 

Food isn’t just what we eat: it is how we live, and it fuels our bodies. In an era of influencers, food trends and diet fads, healthy eating is a phrase often tossed around like a salad and knowing what’s truly good for us can feel like we’re navigating a maze. The answers lie somewhere between science and instinct — it’s about finding balance and making our guilty pleasures the exception, not the rule.

There are food do’s and don’ts that have been tried and tested by science. They are the basics that unlock the best health benefits and longevity from the food we eat. 

The six no-debate do’s for a healthy plate and body 

  1. Paint your plate with colour: Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit for nutrients and fibre, from crisp bell peppers to juicy watermelon slices. Make your plate a canvas filled with colours from nature.
  2. Choose whole grains: Swap refined grains like white bread, pasta and rice for their whole grain counterparts. Dive into a bowl of hearty oatmeal, savour whole wheat bread and enjoy the nutty goodness of brown rice. Your gut will also thank you for the added fibre.  
  3. Do dairy right: Dairy is not the only source of calcium. Pick plain, low-fat, or fat-free milk or yoghurt. For extra calcium and stronger bones, eat foods like canned fish with soft edible bones, calcium-fortified soy milk and calcium-set tofu. 
  4. Pick power proteins: Proteins build up every part of our bodies, so choose protein partners like omega-3-rich sardines, pilchards, salmon, trout and mackerel. Skinless chicken, eggs and legumes (beans, chickpeas, and lentils) also build muscles, one bite at a time. 
  5. Remember not all fats are created equal: Know and eat the good ones, mainly plant fats such as olive oil, canola oil and avocado oil. Unsalted nuts and seeds add crunch and avocados and oily fish (mackerel and salmon) bring omega-3 benefits. Saturated or animal fats can cause heart disease. So, say goodbye to unhealthy fats like butter, lard, ghee, coconut oil, fat on meat, and skin on chicken.  
  6. Drink enough water: Drink water when you are thirsty and regularly throughout the day. 

Take caution: Four don’ts in healthy food habits 

It’s not about depriving yourself. It’s about making wise choices for the best nourishment. 

  1. Say no to highly processed foods: These are often convenient delights. Don’t have takeaway foods, crisps, chocolates, sweets, cakes, biscuits and pastries too often. They’re sugar-and-fat-loaded, tempting us toward unhealthy weight gain. Plus, they’re high in salt — it adds most of the salt in our daily diets.   
  2. Park the processed meats: Beware of these salty snacks. Hot dogs (frankfurters), cold cuts (ham, salami), sausages, corned beef and biltong all contain a lot of salt, and they are linked to increased cancer risk. 
  3. Go slow on the saltshaker: The World Health Organization waves a caution flag to not eat too much salt. They recommend having less than 5 grams of salt a day (that’s a teaspoon only). Too much salt plays havoc with blood pressure, leading to heart disease and strokes. Instead, sprinkle herbs and salt-free spices for a bit of taste variety. 
  4. Stop the sugar attack: Limit the sugary breakfast cereals, biscuits, cake, and sugary drinks. The WHO advises keeping sugar below 5% to 10% of our total energy intake (that’s six to 12 teaspoons a day only). Swap fruit juice for water and go easy on the sugar in your tea and coffee. It’s good for your waistline and teeth.  

When in doubt, use the three-step food plate model  

  1. Make half your plate vegetables and fruit. 
  2. Make one-quarter of your plate whole grain foods.
  3. Make one-quarter of your plate healthy protein foods. 

While food is also about connection and celebration as we gather around tables, it’s always good to keep our health in mind. The secret? Eat variety and enjoy a balanced diet that works for you and your health.