These days everyone is talking about healthy eating. Have you ever wondered what exactly constitutes a healthy diet?
Use the power of the Food Guide Pyramid to face the challenge of healthy eating the trick is to eat just the right amount and not too much. Remember, the food pyramid guideline varies according to the age and physical activity of the individual. Balance the food you eat with physical activity. So calling all Malaysians go for it!
Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods. You need more than 40 different nutrients for optimal health and well-being. Remember, no single food supplies them all. You need to eat whole grain foods whenever possible. Wholemeal bread, wholemeal crackers, fruits and vegetables add fibre and valuable nutrients to our daily diet.
Always make small and smart changes in your dietary food habits. This way you can gradually adjust to the changes and keep to it at least 80% of the time. Remember, 1 gram of fat gives you 9 calories while 1 gram of carbohydrate and protein gives you 4 calories.
The nutrition information on the labels give you specific information about the calories and nutrients (such as fat, cholesterol, sodium, fibre and certain vitamins and minerals) on a single serving of the product. When shopping, use the nutrition labels as your guide to healthful eating. Also look out for the expiry date! You should also shop on a full stomach. This way you won't be tempted to buy extra goods or nibble on free samples.
Realise that no matter where you eat or buy your foods, your favourite foods can still fit into a healthful eating lifestyle. Just balance the variety of foods. Sugar, for example, makes our food palatable and can be part of a healthful diet. However, you have to be aware of hidden sugars in your foods.
In case you do snack, there is a variety of low- fat snacks available such as sandwiches, popiah basah, steamed yam cake, fruits, wholemeal biscuits, low fat yoghurt, unsweetened popcorn and many others. But snacks aren't meal replacers. Smaller portions are usually enough to take away between-meal hunger pangs without interfering with your mealtime appetite.
Go for 5 servings of vegetables and fruits in your daily diet. Have a variety by choosing dark green leafy vegetables, fruit vegetables (eg tomatoes), sprouts and many more. Cook lightly with little oil and, when possible, eat raw.
Have fun with exercises. Enjoy walking with your family. Climb up the steps. Walk to the shops. Wash the car yourself you exercise and save money. Do some gardening plant some vegetables. Plan active family vacations or weekends together.
Set realistic goals for change towards wise eating. Know your intent. Change does not mean eliminating a certain food or food habit. It means focusing on moderation and balance. For example:
Goal - Eat less fat.
Steps - Reduce fried foods to twice a week. Use less or small amounts of santan in the cooking. Go easy on the spreads. Keep meat lean and eat chicken without skin.
Moderation in food intake is the key to successful healthy eating habits. Eat high calorie foods in moderate amounts and balance them with nutrient-wise choices. Learn to control your portion sizes. Even calories in low- fat foods can tip your energy balance when the servings are bigger than what you really need.
Ask for smaller portions when eating out. Find out how a particular dish is prepared. Check the menu description if in doubt. Don't be afraid to request for less oil in your fried noodles or roti canai. Mix and match your food. If you had a plate of fried noodles and teh tarik in the morning, make your lunch lighter by having an average serving of rice with a good serving of vegetables, a piece of ikan masak assam pedas and a slice of fruit. Complement the evening meal with a bowl of noodle soup with lots of vegetables, lean meat and a piece of fruit.
Let's remember that rice, pasta, tubers, bread, noodles and other cereal products are low in fat and offer valuable nutrients and fibre. Remember to cook them with minimum amounts of fat.
Ask a qualified dietitian or nutritionist for reliable food and nutrition information. Call the Malaysian Dietitian's Association or explore http://nutriweb.org.my , the official website of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia. * Note to SEek & JR: NSM does not have call-in facilities.
Yes! Be innovative while preparing different foods and try to modify your cooking methods. Try grilling, steaming, baking and roasting. Use natural flavours such as tamarind, soya sauces, garlic, ginger, onions, vinegar, curry powder, lemon grass or other spices and condiments.
Set out (set out makes me think of primitive hunter-gatherer times; are we suggesting that readers should hunt for a skinless chicken with no fat? Then again, Malaysians will probably understand the statement ...) for lean meat, chicken without skin, prawns without the head and enjoy a variety of proteins. Include lentils, peas, beans and tofu which are good sources of protein, fibre and contain zero cholesterol.
Limit your intake of high- fat salad dressings, fried foods, alcoholic beverages, processed meats, saturated fats such as butter, ghee and full cream cheese, and high- fat foods such as cakes, pastries and pies. It will benefit you a long way � healthwise.
Your philosophy should be: An eating style that promotes fitness and health begins with me. I need to be a role model so that my family members will start eating the healthy way.
Eat Right Malaysia
- By Mary Easaw, Chief Dietitian of The National Heart Institute of Malaysia