The weekend is over and it is with no doubt, that a whole lot of people have ate food portions meant for 3 people at one go (unfortunately, including me). As we all already know, the description of our West African cusine is “heavy on starch, ‘mega’ heavy on meat and generous in fat”.
But, let’s take a closer look on our food portion sizes; In Africa, we are known for our ‘open house’ mentality and extraordinary sense of hospitality – we tend to prepare for unexpected guests by cooking for masses. And in our bid to ensure everyone is well fed, when they turn up we dish up very large portions. On the receiving end, as guests, our native hospitality demands we finish everything on our plates – this can program us to eat more than we need. Sometimes, we even judge a host’s level of hospitality (and status) by how much food and drink is available! With this emphasis on quantity it’s no wonder we are used to large portions. This is a BIG threat to healthy eating.
In your food preparation and eating agenda for the new week, highlight and adopt the following tips for healthy eating;
- Cool and refrigerate meat stock and dispose of the resulting solid fat layer. This is saturated fat which has been proven to increase cholesterol levels and therefore the risk of heart disease.
- Avoid cheaper cuts of meat which tend to be fatty. Buy lean cuts of meat instead. Remove the visible fat if present and take skin off chicken, guinea fowl and turkey.
- Fish is a good alternative to meat as it contains less saturated fat. Aim to have at least 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily fish, (a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial to heart health). An adult portion is about 140 grams and suitable fish include mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, and pilchards.
- Girls, as well as women who are breastfeeding, pregnant or of childbearing age, should have a maximum of 2 portions of oily fish per week. Men, boys and women past childbearing age can have up to 4 portions a week.
- Try roasted, unsalted soya beans (soya nuts) as a lower calorie alternative to peanuts, almonds and cashew nuts.
- Aim to eat no more than 500 grams of cooked, red meat per week to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Also, keep your intake of processed meat (e.g. corned beef, bacon, ham, hot dogs) to the barest minimum, as they are high in salt which can increase your risk of stomach cancer and high blood pressure.
- Offal like heart, liver and kidney are nutritious, lean and how in iron and vitamins A and D, but limit your intake of this if you are pregnant.
- A portion of pulses, such as beans, can also count towards your vegetable intake. However, regardless of how much you have, it will only count as one portion.
Healthy eating can never been over-emphasized.