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Healthy Eating

The healthy dietary guidelines outlined on this page are for adults and children over the age of 5 years. A healthy eating plan is a way of eating which the whole family can enjoy.  It is important to have regular meals throughout the day.  There are no bad food choices, all foods are good.  However, there are unhealthy eating habits such as eating too many high fat foods or skipping meals.

Enjoy a variety of foods

Eleven important points to know:

It is important to eat as many different kinds of foods as possible.  This is because foods do different things in the body e.g. provide energy, keep your body strong and help the body to work properly

Make starchy foods the basis of your meals
The best starchy foods to choose are those high in fibre as they are digested slowly and can stop some of the fat from your diet being absorbed.  Try to choose high fibre starchy foods more often for example bran cereals, porridge brown or wholegrain bread, rice, dry or baked beans, samp and beans, potatoes, roti made with brown or wholegrain flour, phutu, lentils.

Vegetables and fruit with skin are also high in fibre foods
  • Include starchy food with each meal
  • Starches by themselves do not make you gain weight, especially those rich in fibre
  • It is the fat that you add to these foods that make them fattening for example chips.
  • Eat regular meals which contain different kinds of foods
  • Make starchy foods the basis of your meals
  • Eat fat sparingly
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit
  • Eat dry or tinned beans, peas, lentils and soya regularly
  • Chicken, fish, low fat dairy foods, lean meat or eggs may be eaten daily
  • Be active and stay at or reach a healthy weight
  • Drink as much clean water as you can (6-8 glasses per day)
  • Snacks eaten during the day should be high in fibre and low in fat
  • If you drink alcohol, drink sensibly.

Sweet foods
Sweet foods are often high in fat as well.  The best choices of sweetened foods are those which also have lots of fibre in such as bran muffins, wholewheat rusks and wholewheat crackers.  If you are going to eat sweet foods, try to eat less often and in smaller amounts.  Choose foods like jelly sweets, winegums or marshmallows which are fat free, rather than chocolate or cake

Use less fats and salt sparingly

Too many high fat foods can result in weight gain and can also increase your risk of chronic diseases of lifestyle such as heart disease. Fats are in your food as:
  • Fats you can see: cooking oil dripping, ghee, butter, margarine, holsum, fat on meat and skin on chicken
  • Fats you cannot see: Full cream milk, coffee creamer, full cream yoghurt, ice-cream, potato crisps, nuts, pastries, cakes, sausages, burgers, polony salad dressing etc

Having too much salt in the diet is linked with high blood pressure.  Salt is commonly used to add flavour to foods and can come in the form of table salt, soup and gravy powders, stock cubes and seasoning.  Many people use too much to these when they are cooking and or at the table.

  • Some foods are also high in salt such as biltong, popcorn and pickled fish.  These foods can still be part of a healthy eating plan if they are eaten in small amounts and not too often.
  • Some tinned foods may also be high in salt, check the product label for its salt content (low salt products contain <120mg sodium/100g product).  Ensure food which is tinned in salt water (brine) is either drained or rinsed.
  • To use less salt but keep a great taste, use herbs, curry powder, ginger, garlic, onions, pepper and tomatoes

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day

  • All types of vegetables and fruit are good for your skin and can be eaten as part of a healthy eating plan
  • Try to eat a variety of vegetables and fruit everyday
  • Try not to braise or add margarine or oil to your vegetables when cooking or serving them
  • Frozen vegetables are as good as fresh vegetables
  • Over cooking vegetables destroys the vitamins.  Cook vegetables in a little water for a short time
  • If you normally make a stew,  curry or other dishes containing vegetables that you cook for more than 10 minutes try to eat some uncooked vegetables in the form of salads as as side dish to complement your meal
  • You may want to try and grow your own vegetables and fruit.

Eat beans, peas, lentils and soya regularly
Eat dried beans, peas, lentils and soya regularly (at least once a week).  These foods are high in protein and fibre and low in fat.  Replace or extend meat dishes with beans, peas, lentils and soya.  Cut down on the cooking time needed for dry beans, lentils and peas by soaking them in water overnight.


Chicken, fish, low fat milk/maas dairy products, lean meat or eggs may be eaten everyday
  • Lean meat, skinless chicken, fresh or tinned fish, eggs, low fat milk or maas may be eaten every day
  • Try to choose chicken and fish more often than red meat
  • Cut off all the fat you can see on the meat and take the skin off the chicken before cooking
  • Eat fish at least once a week, either tinned in tomatoes or water, or fresh/frozen plan fish if available.  Try not to have fried fish or fish tinned in oil too often
  • Use skimmed, fat free or low fat milk, maas, plain or fruit yoghurt or low fat cheese.
  • Try to choose cheese which contains 10-15 g or less of fat per 100g product.

What can I drink?
Hot and cold drinks :
Clean water is the healthiest drink.  Try  to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day.  Cold drinks by be drunk by the whole family in moderation.  Fresh fruit juices are a healthy choice.  However they contain a lot of natural sugar.  A good way to drink them is by diluting it with with water.  Use fresh, long life or powdered low fat milk in your tea or coffee as these are better choices than coffee creamers or whiteners

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation as outlined below.  Try not to drink more than the following amounts per day

  • 2 small cans or 1 pint  ordinary beer, larger or cider or
  • 2 glasses of dry wine or
  • 2 glasses of sherry or
  • 2 spirit tots (cane, whisky, vodka etc.)


A guide to healthy snacks

If you feel hungry between meals, try to choose snacks which are high in fibre. The following are some examples:

Best snack choices

  • A fresh fruit
  • A small bowl of wholegrain cereal with low fat milk
  • A slice of brown or wholegrain bread
  • Some high fibre biscuits
  • A bran muffin
  • A small tub of low fat yoghurt

    Poorer choices

  • Meat pies, sausage rolls, fried samoosas
  • Crisps and chips
  • Cream & chocolate biscuits, chocolate bars & ice-creams
  • Sweet pastries, cream cakes & sweetmeats

    Tips for healthy cooking

    • Choose methods of cooking like baking, steaming, microwaving, grilling and stewing instead of frying food
    • Use less oil for cooking by measuring our the oil needed for a stew or curry.  Use 1 teaspoon of oil per person in the family.
    • Use tub margarine instead of brick margarine.  Spread less margarine on your bread
    • When making sandwiches try using a low fat mayonnaise or salad dressing instead of margarine

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    Copyright KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, 2001

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