If there was ever the time to focus on a healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight and support our immunity, this is surely it!
Overweight and obesity have been linked to more severe COVID-19 outcomes, along with diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension and Type 2 diabetes. This National Nutrition and Obesity Week, the focus is clear – good nutrition is essential for good immunity.
In addition to good hygiene practices, one of the best defences against the ongoing threat of COVID-19 is a mostly plant-based diet that consists mainly of unprocessed and minimally processed foods. Diets that are based on preparing meals at home from whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds can help to support our immune systems and overall health, as well as reduce our intake of unhealthy fats, food additives and added sugar and salt.
‘Healthy options also do not have to be more expensive,’ says President of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Dr Christine Taljaard-Krugell.
‘In fact, you can create substantial savings through meal planning, shopping tips and smart food preparation. It’s fun and easy to involve your children in preparing and sharing meals at home, which helps them develop lifelong healthy eating habits.’
Healthy eating tips to keep in mind:
- For one full day every week prepare only unprocessed or minimally processed plant-based food: vegetables and fruit, starchy food, and legumes
- Include a variety of vegetables and fruit in daily meal plans – not only on weekends. Frozen, dried, and indigenous vegetables and fruit should be included where possible. Include both cooked and raw vegetables and salads in meals
- Portion sizes of vegetables can be more generous if a variety of fruits is not available. Add extra vegetables to recipes such as stews, curries, stir-fries, salads, soups, sandwiches, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta dishes or egg dishes such as scrambled eggs and omelettes. Baby spinach, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, and sundried tomatoes are some of the vegetables that are easy to add to dishes
- Using fresh vegetables to cook large batches of soups, stews or other dishes will make them last longer and provide meal options for a few days. These can also be frozen where possible and then quickly reheated
- ‘Vegify’ your favourite recipes by swapping some of the animal-based foods with whole plant-based alternatives. Meat can be replaced with vegetables like mushrooms, eggplant and baby marrows or with legumes like lentils, beans, and chickpeas
- Dry beans, peas, lentils, and soya can also be used in many dishes, such as salads, soups, and stews
- Get children into the habit of eating raw vegetable sticks or fruit when they are hungry between meals. They are more likely to enjoy eating vegetables when they have eaten a variety from an early age (from six months) and when they see their parents enjoying vegetables
- Boost your access to fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit by growing your own
For more info on how to make eating whole foods a way of life, including tips, shopping advice, meal planning hacks and delicious recipes, visit www.nutritionweek.co.za