South Africans have become more aware about how and what they are eating. This is the view of the Association for Dietetics is South Africa (ADSA) who say it could be related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Extended lockdowns have restricted movements and options, tightened a few notches on our belts and we have had no choice but to adapt our shopping and exercise habits.
Now many middle-income South Africans have taken the wellness leap and increased their focus on nutritional supplements and “functional foods,” says ADSA president Maria van der Merwe.
Van der Merwe is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a specialised focus on health systems and policy strengthening.
She says, “Good nutrition is essential for optimal health across our lifespans. If we do become ill, a balanced diet can help us fight acute health problems and aid in our recovery.”
In the pandemic, many South Africans are also struggling to make ends meet. As rising food prices and reduced household incomes tighten budgets, it is still possible to achieve a balanced diet, adds registered dietitian Dr Nazeeia Sayed.
Covid-19 shaped daily eating habits
“Healthy eating is within reach. For instance, traditional foods such as samp and beans or dahl and rice are tasty, affordable meals that can be supercharged with some extra veg or a salad.”
The trick lies in “functional food,” Sayad says. Functional foods include products enriched with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fibre. Each of these ingredients have a specific function.
Van der Merwe agrees and explains that “increasing your family’s access to functional foods in an affordable way is as simple as including more fresh vegetables and fruit, legumes and whole-grains in our daily meals.”
Functional eating simplified
With vitamins and minerals flying off the shelves, it’s important to note that there is no scientific evidence that any particular food or nutritional supplement or diet that can prevent Covid-19 or any other infections, Sayad says.
“Your best move is to stick with the healthy eating guidelines and ensure your family is enjoying a variety of foods every day.”
And if your budget is tight, ADSA suggest:
- Variety is the spice of life: Focus on eating a variety of affordable foods so that you consume a wider spectrum of beneficial nutrients
- Prioritise unprocessed foods: This includes seasonal vegetables and fruits, whole grains, dried beans, and lentils
- Eat fewer take-out meals: They are high in salt and fats. Rather allocate your budget to whole foods you can prepare at home.
- Replace sugary drinks: Instead, drink lots of clean, safe water. You will be amazed at how much you will save on your food budget.
- Reduce your meat with more plant-based eating: Inexpensive dried beans and lentils are tasty replacements in meat dishes, or they can be added as an extra ingredient to stretch out your meat-based meals
- Is meat too expensive? Shift to other more affordable animal-based protein sources such as eggs, maas, and yoghurt
- Plan your meals and your food shopping: Look out for price specials and discounts. Collaborate with your family, friends, and neighbours so that you can collectively shop for cheaper bulk buying options.
- Grow your own food: Start a home or community veggie garden and increase your daily access to easy-to-grow veg such as spinach, kale, and traditional greens such as morogo, as well as onions, beans, beetroot, carrots, and tomatoes