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The South African food-based Dietary guidelines

An adequate diet that includes a variety of foods in the correct amount (moderation) is key to optimal nutrition and health of an individual. You’ve probably heard and come across the Food Pyramid or Nutritional pyramid while searching for what it is you should be eating and how much of it. In South Africa, we use the food-based Dietary Guideline to communicate this.

These food-based Dietary guidelines make nutrition a little bit easier, moving away from scientific jargon and are easier to understand and apply. It translates evidence based nutrition recommendations into a guide that aims to help the general population make better food choices for their health and wellbeing and also help in preventing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). NCDs typically refer to lifestyle diseases which include type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and some cancers. The risk of over-nutrition and an unbalanced diet directly correlates with the risk factors that contribute to NCDs.

The food based dietary guidelines are used to help in changing food behaviours so a person is always able to make the best possible choices within budget and food preferences. These guidelines aim to educate people so that they’re able to make better food choices which in turn contribute to their health and well-being while also aiding in the prevention of NCDs.

Below, we elaborate on the food based dietary guidelines.

SA food based guidelines

Enjoy a variety of foods – select foods from all of the circles and eat these daily. Try to vary your selection and the colour of food on your plate. E.g. have spinach, carrots and tomatoes and beetroot on your plate.

Make starchy foods part of most meals – this is where you get most of your energy for the day. Choose whole grain starchy foods like whole grain maize meal, bread and pasta’s over refined white grains.

Be active! – do at least 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. This can include brisk walking, running, cycling, going to the gym, household chores as well as mowing the lawn.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day – Include 5 vegetables and fruit daily (3 vegetables and 2 fruits).

Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya regularly – these can be eaten instead of chicken and meat products for energy and growth.

Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day – these foods are good for your teeth and bones and helps to keep them healthy

Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs can be eaten daily – choose lean cuts of meat, trim off the visible fat and remove the skin before cooking.

Drink lots of clean, safe water – Depending on your activity levels, aim for ± 8 glasses of water or unsweetened beverages.

Use fats sparingly, choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats – avoid adding additional fat to foods. Use a little soft margarine on bread and avoid cooking with and eating hard fats

Use sugar and foods and drinks high in sugar sparingly – limit your intake of foods that contain a lot of sugar. Reduce your intake of sweetened drinks, sweets and sugar.

Use salt and foods high in salt sparingly – avoid adding salt to your food at the table. Reduce the amount of salt you add when cooking. Use herbs and lemon to flavour your food.