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43rd Nutrition Month celebration focuses on the promotion of healthy diets

For the 43rd Nutrition Month celebration this year, the selected focus is on the promotion of healthy diets with the theme: “Healthy diet, gawing habit – FOR LIFE!”

This year, the campaign is aimed to increase awareness on the importance of healthy diets to prevent malnutrition and contribute to the reduction of overweight and obesity and non-communicable diseases; help the public distinguish between healthy and unhealthy foods for better food choices; encourage the food industry including farmers, manufacturers, distributors and food establishments to produce and make available healthier food options; and advocate for the enactment of national and local legislation/policies supportive of an enabling environment for healthy diets.

It is of paramount importance then that we should be guided by five vital keys to a healthy diet:

1. Breastfeed babies and young children

From birth to 6 months of age, feed babies exclusively with breast milk. It means no other food or drink is given to babies.

At 6 months of age, introduce a variety of safe and nutritious foods to complement breastfeeding, and continue to breastfeed until babies are 2 years of age or beyond.

Why?

On its own, breast milk provides all the nutrients and fluids that babies need for their first 6 months of healthy growth and development. Exclusively breastfed babies have better resistance against common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, respiratory infections and ear infections. In later life, those who were breastfed as infants are less likely to become overweight or obese, or to suffer from noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

2. Eat a variety of foods

Eat a combination of different foods, including staple foods, legumes, vegetables, fruit and foods from animal sources

Why?

Eating a variety of whole (unprocessed) and fresh foods every day helps children and adults to obtain the right amounts of essential nutrients. It also helps them to avoid a diet that is high in sugars, fats and salt, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain and noncommunicable diseases. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is especially important for young children’s and development; it also helps older people to have healthier and more active lives.

3. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit

Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruit

For snacks, choose raw vegetables and fresh fruit, rather than foods that are high in sugars, fats or salt

Avoid overcooking vegetables and fruit as this can lead to the loss of important vitamins

When using canned or dried vegetables and fruit, choose varieties without added salt and sugars

Why?

Vegetables and fruit are important sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, plant protein and antioxidants. People whose diets are rich in vegetables and fruit have a significantly lower risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

4. Eat moderate amounts of fats and oils

Use unsaturated vegetable oils (e.g. olive, soy, sunflower or corn oil) rather than animals fats or oils high in saturated fats (e.g. butter, ghee, lard, coconut and palm oil)

Why?

Fats and oils are concentrated sources of energy, and eating too much fat, particularly the wrong kinds of fat, can be harmful to health. For example, people who eat too much saturated fat and trans-fat are at higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

5. Eat less salt and sugars

When cooking and preparing foods, limit the amount of salt and high-sodium condiments (e.g. soy sauce and fish sauce)

Avoid foods (e.g. snacks), that are high in salt and sugars

Limit intake of soft drinks or soda and other drinks that are high in sugars (e.g. fruit juices, cordials and syrups, flavoured milks and yogurt drinks)

Choose fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes and chocolate

Why?

People whose diets are high in sodium (including salt) have a greater risk of high blood pressure which can increase their risk of heart disease and stroke. Similarly, those whose diets are high in sugars have a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese. People who reduce the amount of sugars in their diet may also reduce their risk of noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and stroke. (Source: National Nutrition)

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