Cheap and convenient foods are the nation’s leading cause of poor nutrition. With a diet high in fats and processed sugars, South Africa has the highest obesity and overweight rate in sub-Saharan Africa, this is according to the World Health Organisation. Heading into the new year, Fourways-based non-profit Witkoppen Clinic is urging South Africans to make healthier lifestyle choices, especially when it comes to food.
“While cheaper foods like mielie-meal or white rice may make you feel fuller, their nutritional value is very low,” says Elmaré Theron, a registered dietician working at Witkoppen Clinic. “Rather cook oats or samp and beans, and buy vegetables in bulk – this costs around the same, but goes much further in terms of keeping you healthy.”
Servicing almost 10 000 patients every month, Witkoppen Clinic provides comprehensive healthcare to patients living in Diepsloot, Msawawa, and surrounding areas. The Clinic offers a range of healthcare services, including HIV and TB testing, a mental health clinic and dentist. Patients also have access to nutritional advice, dietary consultations and relevant supplementation, which is essential for undernourished patients, especially those living with TB and HIV.
Theron offers advice on how to eat a healthy diet at an affordable price:
- Choose whole foods: Foods that have undergone excessive processing lose their nutritional value. For example, fast food, white bread and slap chips are highly processed and add unhealthy fats and sugars to your diet. Choosing whole foods, like butternut or potato with the skin on, ensures a healthy, nutrient-rich diet.
- Include protein with every meal: Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, muscles and skin. You only need to eat a small amount of protein every day – the equivalent of an egg – for normal body function. Legumes, such as kidney beans, split peas and lentils are affordable, highly nutritious, good-quality protein sources, as is Inkomazi.
- Eat tinned fish three times a week: Dark-fleshed fish is a good source of both protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which have important anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Adding tinned pilchards or mackerel to your meals is an affordable way to keep your heart healthy.
- Spread out starch portions: Diets high in refined starches are linked to a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. Refined starch can cause blood sugar to spike rapidly and then fall sharply – a huge risk for people with diabetes and prediabetes, since their bodies can’t efficiently remove sugar from the blood. For a healthy alternative, pick whole source starches, like mielies and brown rice, and only eat small quantities three to five times a day.