Healthy eating is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Many people in South Africa eat foods that are high in unhealthy fat and added sugar and therefore may take in too much food energy (kilojoules or calories), and so gain weight. South Africans are also eating too much food with oversized portions being common and this also leads to weight gain. Furthermore, they may be eating too much salt or foods that are high in salt (sodium) such as convenience foods or ready to eat meals, which can lead to high blood pressure, putting them at risk for heart disease and strokes. South Africans may also be at risk of not getting enough vitamins and minerals from the foods they eat, due to the low consumption of starchy foods high in fibre, vegetables, fruit, dairy products and legumes.
When a person is eating an unhealthy diet that consist mostly of foods that are energy-dense and nutrient-poor (provide lots of kilojoules but very little nutrients) the risk of being overweight and obese increases and consequently, so does the risk for diseases of lifestyle, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
A healthy eating plan has mixed meals, made up of a variety of good quality, nutritious foods with the right portion sizes (amounts) to meet a person’s energy and nutrient needs. The Guidelines for Healthy Eating and the Food Guide can help people to achieve that.