Whether you consider food solely as fuel to carry out your daily activities or you eat food to taste every flavor and texture, one thing is certain: food is important to our health.
Experts advise that good nutrition is the bedrock for a healthy lifestyle. Yet, not everyone heeds this advice, and not everyone eats healthy, nutritious food.
Some people wake up every day, with plans to change their diets. They set big targets without tangible steps on how to get there. They focus on the result, not the journey. They often forget, that the journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.
The same maxim applies for our health and nutrition. Transforming your health does not happen overnight. It is a gradual process.
Nutrition is the process of taking in food and using it for growth, metabolism, and repair. A healthy diet throughout life promotes immunity, supports normal growth, development and ageing. Good nutrition is essential to maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing the risk of nutrient deficiencies, and improves our overall health and well-being.
In Nigeria, good nutrition is a luxury. The incidence of malnutrition is heightened by insecurity and the inflation rate, which has made healthy food sources scarce. According to the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2020, rice and garri, are the top food items consumed by the masses. In many households, rice is not as affordable as it used to be, while garri is considered as a last resort.
Highlights of the report, show that 51 per cent of respondents do not have adequate protein-rich foods due to the high costs of food items. With carbohydrates as the most consumed food, the incidence of malnutrition and protein deficiency is a prevalent public health concern.
Despite the statistics, there are healthy habits and food sources that can be adopted, to transform our health for the better.
You could start by making a meal plan for yourself. Forget about diet fads, just make up your own meal plan. A protein rich meal plan is something to consider. Soybeans, eggs, groundnuts, soymilk, fish, vegetables, are good starters, plus they can go with plenty other foods.
This doesn’t mean you should eat protein alone, but you should increase your protein intake, since we eat so little of it every day. Nothing beats a healthy and balanced diet. Eat right. Your breakfast in the morning should be light, lunch can be a heavy meal, and dinner at night should also be light. Do some exercise, even if it is twice a week.
Secondly, make sure you commit to the habit of eating healthy. Don’t eat healthy on one Tuesday, and miss the next couple of days. As they say, practice makes perfect. We have lots of healthy food choices in Nigeria. From walnuts, avocados, soy chunks, crayfish to carrots, potatoes and melon seeds (egusi), we have different varieties of food options. So, eat healthy, experiment and find out what works best for you.
Finally, when it comes to constructing a diet that will support your health transformation goals, improve your immunity and create the best conditions for maintaining a healthy body weight, there are a number of key foods that are essential. These foods contain protein, and they include soy milk, almonds, quinoa, fish, eggs, millet, berries, leafy greens, and legumes.
If you’re thinking about transforming your health and building a new health habit – there’s no better time than now to start.
Reginald Onabu, Researcher and Public Relations Officer, Writes from Lagos.