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This National Nutrition Week, give your family a better understanding of the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods using this easy method.

Only 56% of consumers read food nutrition labels when considering their food choices. And often times, South Africans sacrifice the nutritional value of food in favour of taste and value for money, according to the Eat Well Live Well Institute’s 2021 State of the Nutrition in SA report

Commissioned by Tiger Brands, the initiative not only highlighted SA’s unhealthy dietary habits, it also aimed to address health and wellness challenges. 

Terry Harris, head dietitian at Discovery Vitality adds that even those who read labels, may not apply what they read into making good choices. So, here’s some help for you.

Make the healthy choice the easy choice

The nutrition report found that two out of five SA parents believe their children don’t have a good understanding of the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods. As the country marks National Nutrition Week from October 9 to 15 2022, we are sharing an approach suggested by the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, that’s not only easy to follow but also a great way to teach your kids how to make healthier food choices. With the Go, Slow, Whoa method, pretty soon your kids will be preparing and packing their own, healthy, school lunches and snacks.

The basic premise of Go, Slow, Whoa is: Eat more of the Go foods, go easy on the Slow foods and limit the Whoa foods.

Eat more GO Foods

“GO” foods are highly nutritious, minimally processed or whole foods and are low in added sugar and sodium.

GO Foods include:

Fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), nuts and seeds, lean protein, fat free plain milk and yoghurt and wholegrains and high fiber starchy foods.

  • Top Tip: According to the State of Nutrition report, 57.5% of respondents add more than the World Health Organization recommended 5g or one teaspoon of salt to food daily. So, when cooking your GO foods, use salt-free spices to reduce the amount of salt you add to your food, and use fresh and dried herbs, garlic and ginger to flavour food instead.

Challenge for the week: Try a range of healthy recipes with GO foods this week. Find some inspiration on the Vitality Home Cooking Channel.

Extra incentive: With the HealthyFood benefit, Vitality members get up to 75% back on Go foods, helping them choose healthier grocery items. Have a look at the full list for Pick n Pay and Woolworths. GO items are marked in-store and online with an indicator.

Go easy on the SLOW Foods

“Slow” foods (also referred to as neutral because they are neither healthy nor unhealthy) still have a place in a healthy diet.

“Slow” foods include: Refined starchy foods such as white pasta and rice, white bread and crackers, tinned and dried fruit, red meat, biltong and smoked fish, nut butters with added sugar and salt, flavoured yoghurt and low fat and full cream milk.

Top Tip: Choosing Go foods instead of Slow foods reduces the risk of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease and cancer, among other health benefits. So, for healthy snacks, turn to fresh fruit, popcorn (homemade with a little oil and no added salt), avocado or peanut butter (with no added sugar and salt) on fiber-rich crackers or a small handful of seeds and unsalted nuts.

Challenge: Swap white rice for brown rice and add a tin of beans or lentils to a stew or salad.

Limit the WHOA Foods

These are unhealthy foods that are highly processed, high in added sugar and sodium, are energy dense and nutrient poor.

“Whoa” foods include: sweets, chocolates, sugary drinks (including fruit juice), processed meats and snacks that are high in salt, such as potato chips.

Challenge: Replace processed meats (like salami, ham and sausages) with healthy proteins such as cold roast chicken or homemade meatballs. Prepare boiled eggs in advance and keep in the fridge for a convenient and healthy protein to add to a meal.

Top Tip: If you’d like a break from cooking, Vitality HealthyDining gives you healthy options to choose from, whether you’re eating out or ordering in. Vitality Health members get up to 25% back on healthier meal options at Col’Cacchio, Doppio Zero, Mugg & Bean, Nando’s, Uber Eats, Frozen for You and UCOOK. Qualifying meals are marked on the menu with an indicator. 

Empower your kids to choose more GO foods

Harris adds: “While we know kids will be kids and won’t always go for the healthy options, empowering them with information will help them make an informed decision – even if it’s not always the right one every time.”

“Of course, not all food is consumed from our kitchens, so if the kids use the school canteen, cafeteria, tuckshop or Uber Eats, encourage them to select the more nutritious options: choose from the important food groups such as lean protein, fruit, vegetables and wholegrains; opt for no cheese; swop out chips for salads, and go for grilled instead of fried,” she says. 

To make these healthy choices easier, Vitality kids get up to 50% back on qualifying HealthyDining meals at Col’Cacchio, Doppio Zero, Mugg & Bean, Nando’s. DM/ML

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