Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating

Food is important for everyone, young and old because of the nutrients it provides. Healthy eating combined with being physically active helps your body stay strong and healthy. Healthy eating means eating a variety of foods that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good, and have energy. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals. Healthy eating is also referred to as having a balanced diet.

Some definitions to help in understanding what healthy eating is:

  • Food Group: Food is anything we eat or drink that provides our bodies with nourishment and helps our bodies function properly. A food group consists of foods that are similar based on their type, for example vegetables or fruit, and generally have similar nutrients, for example fruits and vegetables are significant in the diet for providing vitamins and minerals.
  • Meal: This refers to the food consumed at one sitting, especially at one of the customary, regular occasions for eating during the day, as breakfast, lunch, or supper.
  • Diet: the kinds of food that a person or community habitually eats. Dietary patterns represent a broader picture of food and nutrient consumption, for example a Traditional Diet (based on our local food), the Mediterranean Diet, the Western-style diet (also called the meat-sweet diet or standard American diet). Dietary patterns are associated with particular health outcomes; for example, the Western-style diet is associated with obesity and higher risk of NCDs.
  • Balanced Diet: This is a diet that provides adequate amounts and proportions of all the necessary nutrients required for health, growth, development, and activity at each stage of the life. A balanced diet is composed of a variety of different foods from different food groups in the right proportions so that it contains all the nutrients the body needs and meets the nutrient requirements of the person eating it. A balanced diet boosts immunity, helps maintain a healthy body weight and prevents the development of NCDs.

So how can we ensure that we are eating healthy (consuming a balanced diet)? Many countries, including Uganda, are developing national food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs). FBDGs provide context-specific and evidence-based principles and guidance on healthy diets and lifestyles. They are grounded in a country’s food production and consumption patterns, sociocultural influences, food composition data, and accessibility, among other factors. FBGDs propose a set of recommendations in terms of foods, food groups and dietary patterns to provide the required nutrients to promote overall health and prevent chronic diseases. FBDGs may also suggest food combinations (meals), eating modalities and consider food safety and lifestyle. The Ministry of Health and partners are finalising FBDGs for Uganda and as soon as they are disseminated, we will share them on this website.

Source: The Presidential Initiative on Healthy Eating & Healthy Lifestyle

The Presidential Initiative On Healthy Eating & Healthy Lifestyle provides a very useful guide (available in the resources section of this website). It depicts a balanced diet in the form of a plate. Half of the plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables, with more vegetables than fruits. ¼ of the plate is cereals/grains (eg maize, millet), starchy roots (eg sweet potatoes, cassava) and plantain/matooke. The other ¼ should be animal and plant source proteins – with a bias towards plant source proteins including beans, peas, and groundnuts.

Some basic principles for healthy eating:

  1. Eat foods from different food groups in the proportions indicated in the Presidential Initiative plate. This should be your habitual pattern, ie your diet, which is defined by your meals. In short, your meals should also have foods from the different food groups.
  2. Eat a diverse range of foods – variety is important even within a food group. For example, if you eat beans today, have groundnuts tomorrow and fish the next day. If you eat matoke today, have sweet potatoes tomorrow and millet the next day.
  3. Choose whole foods or minimally processed foods over highly processed foods.
  4. To re-state for emphasis, avoid ultra-processed foods. Ultra-processed foods typically have more than one ingredient that you never or rarely find in a kitchen. They also tend to include many additives and ingredients that are not typically used in home cooking, such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours.
  5. Have different colours on your plate/meal and in your diet as a whole. For example, green from nakati, orange from pumpkin, yellow from matoke, brown from beans, and more yellow from a glass of juice or some pineapple slices.
  6. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables daily, include as much variety as you can daily.

Dr. Acham Hedwig is a distinguished Senior Lecturer in the Department of Food Technology and Nutrition. Holding a Ph.D. in Nutrition, she focuses on innovative strategies to enhance public health through improved nutrition. Dr. Hedwig's research delves into the nutritional value of food products and dietary interventions, assessing their impact on health outcomes and educating the masses about good nutrition. Beyond her academic duties, Dr. Hedwig collaborates actively with industry partners and health organizations, translating her research into practical applications. This commitment to bridging academia and industry has significantly enhanced the real-world impact of her work, particularly in improving nutritional standards and promoting healthier eating habits.

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