10 Guidelines for healthy eating

A healthy lifestyle helps to prevent and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and cancer. Remember to keep an eye on your portion sizes, keep physically active and avoid smoking. Also read about the Plate model. For inspiration on how to apply these principles in your daily family meals, find healthy versions of your favourite family recipes here.

Step 1.

Enjoy a variety of foods.

Eating different foods give your body all the nutrients it needs. Enjoying a variety of foods also prevents boredom associated with eating the same food every day. The more colourful your plate of food is, the wider the variety of nutrients. This is important for any meal – it shouldn’t only be meat and starches.

Step 2.

Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils or soya regularly.

These are good sources of protein, low in fat and high in fibre. You can replace meat in some meals with these ingredients and they are the best plant-based protein for vegetarian meals. Keep in mind that these contain both protein and carbohydrates.

Step 3.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day.

Remember to eat vegetables and fruit from the different colour groups (red, green, yellow and orange). The vitamins, minerals and fibre in these foods help to protect you against diseases. Enjoy about two fruits and three veggies a day. Aim for a total of five portions of vegetables and fruit every day, some of which should be raw. Make use of these ingredients for sides, salads or accompaniments with every meal.

Step 4.

Make unrefined starchy foods part of most meals.

These foods are high in fibre and can help you feel fuller for longer and lower your risk of developing obesity, heart disease and cancer. Good choices are unrefined, unprocessed or wholegrains, like brown or wholewheat bread, coarse maize (mealie) meal, oats and brown rice. This could also include starchy veggies like butternut and sweet potato. Remember to enjoy these in controlled portions. This is especially important for main meals, as there are often too many starchy dishes on the table.

Step 5.

Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs can be eaten daily.

Choose lean or lower fat options with less bad (saturated) fats. Bad fats can increase your cholesterol and block your blood vessels, which can lead to a stroke or heart disease. Remember to remove any excess fat from meat and chicken before cooking these. Try to include tinned or fresh fish as part of your diet at least twice a week. Good examples are pilchards, snoek, sardines or tuna.

Step 6.

Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day.

Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium. This can help protect your bones, prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. Good options are unsweetened, low-fat dairy products and cheeses.

Step 7.

Use salt and foods high in salt sparingly.

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and cancer. Some salt in your diet comes from salt added at the table or during cooking, but more than half of the salt you eat can come from processed foods. Examples are stock cubes, soup powders, crisps and processed meats like polony. Gradually cut down on adding salt and soon you won’t notice the difference. Pre-prepared foods and shop-bought spice mixes, marinades and sauces used when cooking can be very high in salt. Homemade is always best, as you know what is added to your meals. Find delicious recipes here and learn more about this topic with our free downloadable Low salt booklet.

Step 8.

Use sugar and foods and drinks high in sugar sparingly.

Too much sugar can make you gain weight, which increases your risk of chronic diseases. Sugar in your diet comes from sugar added to cold and hot drinks, cereals and when cooking. High amounts of sugar are also found in cakes, biscuits, doughnuts, sweets, chocolates, sweetened dairy products and sweetened cold drinks. Shop-bought marinades, sauces and other pre-prepared foods used when cooking can contain more sugar than you may realise – rather make your own. Find delicious recipes here.

Step 9.

Use fats sparingly. Choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats.

Eating too much fat and fried food can make you gain weight and raise your cholesterol levels. For a person who needs to lose weight or who wants to maintain a healthy weight, this is important. Limit the amount of fatty red meat, butter, hard margarine, cream, lard and ghee that you use. Rather use good (unsaturated) fats like oils (canola, olive or sunflower oil) and soft tub margarine in small to moderate amounts. Nuts, seeds, peanut butter and avocados are sources of good fats. Find delicious recipes here that use healthy fats.

Step 10.

Drink lots of clean, safe water.

You need about 6-8 glasses of water a day. Most of this should come from tap water and includes drinks like tea or coffee without any sugar. Remember that fruit juice has a high concentration of fruit sugars which can affect the amount of energy added to a meal or snack. Rather dilute juice by a third with water or choose fresh fruit instead. If you do drink alcohol, drink in moderation.